Making real-life changes with ACT
20th December 2018
ACT in a brand new light
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a branch of mindfulness based therapies, that helps people come to a state of true acceptance about the many difficulties of life. In addition to achieving acceptance, a primary aim of this therapy is to help individuals enjoy full lives that are meaningful and authentic.
In this article, we’re going to break down how this form of therapy works and what results you can experience as a result of ACT.
Acceptance: working out what’s not likely to change
Part of the process of maturing into adulthood is accepting the many difficulties and challenges that naturally come with life. And while there are many difficulties we can accept, some difficulties are harder to accept than others. For example, some people can’t accept a terrible event from their past, or they can’t accept that self-destructive family members simply don’t want to change or improve their own lives.
Events from the past can’t be changed once they’ve happened, and how our family members choose to use their own free will is also something we can’t change. So where there is no chance for change, the only way through is to come to a state of genuine acceptance. Through thought-diffusion exercises and acceptance strategies we can really help individuals restructure their internal world to be supportive and empowering.
This modality doesn’t necessarily go into past events, or the childhood origins of thoughts or feelings. It offers present-moment awareness strategies and techniques to help individuals allow what can’t be changed, which subsequently enables healing and new growth to take place. Resistance and reactivity greatly diminish from a person’s experience, freeing them up to create a meaningful life that they gradually come to love.
Commitment: working out what you value
We also help individuals work out their true values in life. Values are what provide our lives with direction and infuse our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose. When working with clients, we help them map out the values they aspire to commit to in various parts of their lives, from career, to relationships, to hobbies and continuing education.
Examples here include career. While you might be a finance lawyer by day, at the heart of your career is a desire to create fairness in the world. So the value of ‘fairness’ is expressed through the activity generated by your career – and possibly through other areas of your life too. In terms of relationships, perhaps you want to be a partner who is a great at fostering ‘intimacy’ with your significant other. Or you want to be a more ‘compassionate’ parent. As a friend you might strive to be ‘mindful’ and through your hobby you might be looking to create a sense of ‘joy’ in your immediate surroundings.
By stepping back and looking at all the areas of your life and the values that shine through these areas, you can see your contribution overall as a human being – and how building up the good in your life can far outweigh any negativity.
Action: developing goals based on your values
Once your framework of values is in place, it’s possible to see where you are in life, and what aspirations you hold for the life you really want to live. As part of these exercises, your negativity can often be seen through a renewed perspective – and it’s often possible to see there’s far more good than bad.
Having a set of values in place is also essential in that it’ll help you determine goals for the future. When you know your values, if you run into difficulties as you build your future vision going forward, you will know how to act mindfully in the face of triggers or stress, as it’s now possible to let your actions be guided by your values. You’ll know the direction your life is taking overall and can allow any negativity, just as you would if there were disruptive passengers on a bus – disruptive passengers (or thoughts like ‘I’m not good enough’) can pipe up, but as the driver in charge of the bus, you can keep moving forward in the direction of your choice.
Results you can achieve through ACT
Many of our clients really get a lot out of this form of therapy, in that it not only helps them accept and thereby overcome negativity, it helps put them in a creative space where they feel more empowered to take charge of their own lives going forward.
We’ve found that some people who have tried CBT in the past sometimes work with ACT and achieve additional results and new perspectives. Where CBT will challenge negativity head-on, ACT will get a person to accept negativity – and while they are entirely different strategies, both modalities are able to offer an individual tremendous relief and healing from stress, anxiety and depressive tendencies.
We’ve helped countless individuals transform their internal world to be more supportive and empowering. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.