Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as the new wave

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as the new wave

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has provided me with a legitimate channel to bring together the best of Eastern and Western wisdom into the therapy room. What I love about ACT is that it rejects the general tendency of pathologizing people for having unpopular feelings like sadness or fear. Instead, ACT gives us some great tools to make peace with our minds by embracing every part of ourselves. I began to include this approach in my sessions with clients after attending an excellent workshop with ACT's founder, Steven Hayes, and reading books and articles about ACT research. Here, I brielfly explain ACT for those who are unfamiliar with it.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is essentially an empirically based, modern version of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. ACT is cognitive in the sense that it helps individuals explore their negative thoughts and emotions (fear, sadness, doubt, etc.), from a less threatening, and a more empowering perspective. Imagine what would be like if you were not afraid of fear or sadness, and if you could embrace these emotions as parts of your experience of being a human being. ACT helps you recognize negative thoughts and feelings and see them for what they really are, so they are neither overwhelming nor become your main identity. Simply put, when you "hug" negative emotions like fear or sadness, instead of resisting or rejecting them, they become a less powerful force in your life.

ACT also aims to help individuals clarify their values by aligning them with desired life goals. For example, it is common to meet someone who seems "to have everything in life" but still feels unfillfilled. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy asserts that for this person, having everything was not a goal that agreed with what he or she ultimately valued. Success means something different to each of us, and it is shaped by how faithful we are to our values.

The good news is that we can change our actions and behaviors to get closer to what makes us truly happy. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is behavioral in the sense that it aims to help individuals take responsibility for their happiness by commiting to act in alignment with their values. Happiness can be realized by working through the conditions, barriers, and difficulties of the present. For ACT enjoying the process of reaching our goals is as important, if not more important than the goal itself.

I use ACT in my work with clients to make both the goal as well as the reaching of the goal an enlightening and rewarding journey.

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