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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Online
What is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a third-wave therapy approach developed from behaviour therapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). ACT’s framework explains that emotional pain is a natural aspect of human experience, and it is expected. Despite this, ACT is an optimistic approach that claims that it is possible to have a rich, meaningful and purposeful life, even in the presence of difficult feelings.
ACT acknowledges that the mind tends to avoid unpleasant emotions and thoughts. However, this experiential avoidance and resistance is counterproductive and leads to more layers of suffering. Although pain is inevitable, the additional suffering created by resistance to what is can be reduced by dropping the struggle with thoughts and emotions. Accepting one’s inner experiences as they are reduces their impact and allows the person to attend to what matters. No more energy is spent on fighting thoughts and emotions, and it is then used to fulfil one’s purpose in life.
Think of this metaphor: if you fall into quicksand, the most instinctive thing your brain will want to do is to fight it to get out. However, paradoxically, the more you struggle, the more it takes you down. The way to survive quicksand is to expand your arms and legs and allow yourself to float to the surface. This doesn’t come naturally, as our fight and flight response leads us to find a way to escape, but this makes things worse.
ACT is about floating the quicksand. It shows you how to drop the struggle with unpleasant thoughts and emotions, which means a total change in perspective to what we are used to.
ACT encourages us to live by our values and take committed action. Values are considered like a compass that guides our behaviour every time we need to. This is helpful because it corrects our unhelpful behaviour and redirects it once and again so we can create the life we want, based on what matters to us, and the type of person we want to be. This way, moving and acting towards a rich, meaningful life becomes possible even in distress and struggle. Life can’t always be happy, but it can always be meaningful.
The ACT model and the hexaflex
The ACT model adheres to the idea that psychological suffering is a normal part of the human brain. Six elements (what in ACT is refered as to the hexaflex) are included in the model and help to cultivate psychological flexibility:
Cognitive defusion aims to change the attitude towards unpleasant thoughts. Instead of wanting to get rid of them, it shows clients how to deal with them differently, by allowing them to be in the background. It is about stepping back and detaching from the thoughts without striving to eliminate them.
Acceptance is the acceptance of our emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and anything that is. If we find a way to accept reality as it is, our perspective on things changes, and then, even if the emotional pain is still present, we can live life with a different quality. The idea is that it is the desire to get rid of unpleasant emotions that make us suffer, rather than the emotions in themselves.
Mindfulness teaches us to be fully present in the present moment, increasing our awareness of internal and external surroundings. This practice allows us to see thoughts and emotions without becoming attached to them. This creates a deeper connection with the present, facilitating a calm and serene inner peace.
This component is characterised by the idea that we are not our thoughts or feelings. We can observe them rather than being tangled with them. As a result, we acquire perspective on things, which helps with defusion and acceptance.
Through values work we identify what type of person we want to be, and what life we want to create. Values help us make decisions that align with our true selves, serving as a compass through difficulties.
Committed action is about setting up goals that will materialise the values we align with. It is about actually going and creating a life based on the values we have hold. Committed action overcomes inertia coming from fear or avoidance.
How can ACT help
ACT can offer transformative benefits in various aspects:
- Provides tools to manage emotions more skillfully.
- Enhances resilience through increased psychological flexibility and the ability to accept emotions.
- Improves relationships by encouraging individuals to align their actions with their values.
- Increases self-awareness through mindfulness practice.
- Creates meaning and purpose by prompting individuals to contemplate what truly matters to them.
- Reduces the struggle with thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations, thereby diminishing distress.
- Reduces avoidance by promoting an attitude of welcoming everything and pushing away nothing.
Do you offer ACT therapy near me?
We offer online ACT therapy because this way we can reach you out whenever you are in the world. Trained in the UK, we provide support to people all over the world, in Spanish and English.