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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.

Portrait of Bryant McGill sitting in a formal room looking directly at the camera with a slight smile. He is wearing a light colored suit with a multicolored tie and white shirt.

Bryant McGill (pictured here) is a human potential thought leader, international bestselling author, activist, and social entrepreneur.

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.

Portrait of Dr. Russ Harris in front of a bookcase. He is looking directly at the camera and is smilling with short, curly hair. He is wearing a dark shirt with the top button undone.

Dr. Russ Harris (pictured here) is an internationally best-selling author, medical doctor, psychotherapist, life coach, and consultant to the World Health Organization.

Take ACTion

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.

Infographic of the ACT process with the word "me" in the middle and 4 phrases encircling "me." Those four phrases are "be present," "allow, "care," and "take action."

Through ACT one will learn the components of “me.”

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:

  1. Awareness –  Be present in the moment
  2. Defusion – Notice your thoughts
  3. Acceptance – Openness, curiosity, not judging or comparing
  4. Observer Self – Connecting with self in the real-time
  5. Values – Things that are important to you
  6. 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:

  1. Be present
  2. Open up
  3. 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.

Dr. Charles Muorah’s (pictured here) therapy goal is to walk the walk with you and empower you to be a leader in your life story.

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 cmuorah@councilforrelationships.org or via phone at 215-382-6680 ext. 7033.

If you are looking for individual, couple, or family therapy or psychiatry, click here to request an appointment. See our Therapist & Psychiatrist Directory to find additional CFR therapists or psychiatrists near you.

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