Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) gets it name from one of its main messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. It is a remarkably creative and experiential counselling approach firmly rooted in empirically supported research into how the human mind works. It has been clinically shown to be applicable to a wide range of life struggles. There are now over 100 randomized controlled trials supporting the efficacy of ACT.
There are two basic aims in this approach:
1) teaching you practical and accessable skills to deal with your negative, painful thoughts and feelings effectively - in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills).
2) helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you - i.e your values - and then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better, and to assist you to move in directions in life that matter to you.
Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in some important part of life and we feel unsure in how to move forward. Oftentimes our usual tools for dealing with life's problems and challenges — tools that used to work well in the past — are no longer working, and we feel stuck. Even worse, our old tools may actually be making the problems worse. We are left at a loss as to how to proceed and we find ourselves feeling unsure and maybe even helpless about what to do. A counsellor is your ally to help support you in the journey toward understanding: (1) your unique situation, gifts, and challenges, (2) the tools you are using to try to fix or cope with your problems, and (3) how to expand and strengthen your skills and resources so that they are more effective and flexible.
The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. A vital life is about taking effective action guided by what you deeply care about, and in which you are fully present and engaged. Of course, as you attempt to create such a life, you will come aross all sorts of barriers, in the form of unpleasant and unwanted ‘private experiences’ (thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges, and memories).
ACT provides skills, along with a wide range of experiential exercises and values-guided behavioural interventions, as an effective way to handle these private experiences. A key component of ACT is ‘mindfulness’: a transformative mental state of awareness, openness, and focus. Mindfulness has usually been taught in the context of meditation but this skill can easily be learned in a few minutes, and it will rapidly and effectively help you to reduce the impact and influence of painful feelings, let go of distressing or unhelpful thoughts, break the grip of self-defeating habits, and engage fully in your life.