Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
COVID-19 remains, for me, a unique experience. When the pandemic struck, it was a sudden, global, isolating, traumatic, and life-changing experience. We went into lockdown mode and the loss was huge. It disproportionately affected people of color. The grief and the recovery work are far from being over. I accepted the pandemic for what it is and was; acknowledging my private experiences and guided by my values, I made a commitment to smart goals and a set of actions to add value to my life and the quality of my clinical work. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) tools helped me become more mindful of what I do and my environment.
Sadness is a golden door to inner beauty
Author Bryant McGill once said, “If you can sit with your pain, listen to your pain and respect your pain—in time you will move through your pain.” My loss and pain from the pandemic were transformed into a unique gift: the revelation of the pure me. Sadness is a golden door to inner beauty. Now is the time to share this unique experience with you. No matter what, take a meaningful ACTion towards what is important to you.
What is it that you care about in life? How are you going about it? Do you have an awareness of your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and memories? How do you accept them, and guided by your values, redefine your private experiences to attain a wealthy, meaningful, and purposeful life? How do you identify and empower sets of actions that keep adding value and quality to your life? ACTion has the answer.
ACT was founded in the 1980s by Professor of Psychology, Steven C. Hayes, and built upon by Kirk Strosahl and Kelly Wilson. Russ Harris made ACT training more popular and he is an internationally recognized trainer. The theoretical background is functional contextualism (that is, philosophy of science) and relational frame theory (that is, theory of language). In his own words, “Acceptance and commitment therapy is an existential, humanistic, mindfulness-based, cognitive therapy.” It is an evidence-based therapy; transdiagnostic in character and applicable to all conditions and how one does life.
There are more than 3,000 publications on its efficacy covering a variety of clinical conditions: PTSD, anxiety, depression, chronic medical conditions and co-morbidity, chronic pain, dissociation, and addictive behaviors. Organizations, athletes, Veteran affairs, security and safety personnel, first responders, and hospitals have used ACT to improve their performance and quality of care.
ACT differs from other therapy models that focus on symptom reduction and prescribed protocol. Its primary aim is the reduction of psychological suffering and building a wealthy, meaningful, and fulfilled life. In ACT, symptom reduction or behavioral change is a byproduct. This allows the therapist and the client to co-create and contextualize the ACT process and mindfulness technique, ultimately enabling the client to develop a functional relationship with difficult thoughts, emotions, or any specific private experience.
How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy works
How does it do it? ACT utilizes empowering language, being present in real-time, and engaging in effective and mindful actions guided by one’s values. It does so by nurturing psychological flexibility and regulating difficult emotions and thoughts to restore living in the present, healing the past, and building the future.
ACT is comprised of the following six core processes:
- Awareness – Be present in the moment
- Defusion – Notice your thoughts
- Acceptance – Openness, curiosity, not judging or comparing
- Observer Self – Connecting with self in the real-time
- Values – Things that are important to you
- Committed Action – Sets of behaviors to engage with to live by your values.
Those six core processes can be further summarized into three essential processes:
- Be present
- Open up
- Do what matters
Taking meaningful action toward what you care about in life is training for the following:
- To use acceptance and commitment therapy to enhance (or overcome obstacles to) living an abundant life
- To mindfully connect safely and meaningfully with one’s inner wisdom, fully present with oneself and whatever is happening in real-time to live a healthy, wealthy, meaningful, and fulfilled life
- Trusting oneself and the healing process to keep doing what matters regardless of how pleasant or unpleasant the personal experiences are
- Being guided by one’s values to develop more flexibility in accepting life experiences, thoughts, and feelings; allowing oneself to be and nurturing oneself with compassion, kindness, and understanding of one’s limitations
- To progressively understand where one needs to be more present in one’s life, move away from destructive/unproductive behaviors, and mindfully engage in sets of committed purposeful actions to develop the desired quality of life
- Mindfully connect safely with oneself in real-time, to identify and clarify one’s values, and review them in the context of an existential situation
If ACT sounds helpful to you, or if you have questions, please reach out to me.
About the Author
Dr. Charles Muorah PhD, STL, LMFT is a Staff Therapist at Council for Relationships. He specializes in brainspotting, sex therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and anger management. If you have questions about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, the ACTion Healing workshops series, or if you would like to request an appointment with Dr. Muorah, you may contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 215-382-6680 ext. 7033.
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