Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an empirically supported, mindfulness based therapy focused on helping individuals to better understand and explore psychological pain. Its goal is to help clients recognize and normalize the pain they are experiencing, while simultaneously allowing them to step back from that same pain in order to explore and examine it from new perspectives. Instead of teaching clients how to avoid or change negative thoughts and feelings, ACT works to teach clients how to accept their pain and then implement commitments to positive action based around the client's own value structure.
Common Issues that Acceptance & Commitment Therapy can Treat
ACT can be a powerful tool in helping clients to deal with various issues including:
- Eating Disorders
- Chronic Pain
- Substance Abuse
- Psychotic Symptoms
How Can Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Help Me?
As an empirically supported therapy, ACT focuses on helping clients to become more mindful of their negative thoughts, feelings and self-perceptions. Based on the philosophical ideas of functional contextualism, in combination with Relation Frame Theory (a therapy technique that focuses on the importance of language), it teaches clients how to accept and explore their pain rather than trying to avoid or "run" from it. Further, ACT teaches clients how to use language as an effective means to help themselves and exist more presently in the moment.
ACT works by first allowing clients a safe space to openly and fully experience their negative feelings or pain. Next, it teaches clients how to explore and examine that pain from a position of strength and curiosity rather than one based solely on fear. After clients have had the opportunity for introspective exploration, they are then taught how to accept those feelings and work toward committing to positive personal action. These actions are based heavily on the client's own personal values and as such, are able to produce long term solutions toward a more positive life orientation. Likewise, because ACT is values focused, it gives clients the opportunity to deeply consider and define (or redefine) the values they feel are most important.
Finally, ACT also teaches clients productive and instrumental techniques that allow them to work toward reducing their stress, increasing their levels of satisfaction, and establishing a deeper connection to their inner self. Instead of trying to cope or avoid, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy allows clients to develop the skills required to face psychological pain with confidence and strength.
How Quickly Does Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Work?
ACT can be delivered in a variety of forms that vary in length.
- Brief Therapy: This may require 4 - 6 sessions that run 50 minutes each in length.
- Medium Term Therapy: This may require 8 - 10 sessions that run 50 minutes each in length.
- Long Term Therapy: This may require upwards of 40 sessions that run 50 minutes each in length.
However, it is important to note that the exact length of therapy required for each client will vary depending on severity and complexities of the issues that are being addressed. Clients will have the opportunity to discuss this more fully with their therapist in person during the first few sessions.
Psychologists that Specialize in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
Heidi Edgar has received training in ACT and can offer therapy based in this modality.