Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Move through difficult emotions more easily.
What Is Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
When confronted with something frightening, stressful, or uncomfortable, as humans, our first instinct is either fight or flight. This response may have served our ancestors well in the past when ancient beasts roamed the land, but in today’s modern age — where the perils we face include stress, complicated relationships and managing our emotional wellness, instead of saber-tooth tigers — at times it can do more harm than good.
If you often find yourself struggling, denying, or avoiding your emotions instead of accepting them as they come, you’re not alone. It’s only natural to want distance from something you perceive as “wrong” or “negative,” but it’s not a particularly stress-free way to live.
Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a therapy approach geared toward helping you focus on the present moment and moving forward through difficult emotions. Instead of struggling against negative thoughts, feelings, circumstances, or unpleasant symptoms, ACT encourages acceptance and a commitment to meaningful life activities.
We Specialize in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
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ACT has a close relationship with mindfulness, which revolves around staying grounded in the present by paying close attention to your inner thoughts and feelings, physical sensations, and surrounding environment. Practicing mindfulness helps you remain in the moment instead of fixating on past experiences or future worries.
Overall, the goal of ACT isn’t to reduce the severity or frequency of negative internal experiences, like with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Instead, it aims to reduce your internal struggle to confront, control, or eliminate these experiences and increase your participation in activities that align with your personal values.
One of the main benefits of ACT is improved psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility refers to the ability to accept your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when they’re useful or constructive for the situation. When they aren’t constructive, you’ll be flexible enough to set them aside or adapt them to better align with your goals and values.
This allows you to be more mindful of your inner experience and focus on actions that make your life more meaningful, instead of acting on short-term impulses created by habitual avoidance of certain thoughts or emotions.
Who Can Benefit From Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
ACT helps you to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Over time, ACT allows you to build a better relationship with difficult experiences through acceptance. Instead of dwelling on the negative, ACT encourages you to put your energy into healing and compassion. The increased psychological flexibility you gain can also help you manage symptoms of various mental health conditions.
Some of the concerns that ACT can help with are:
While further research is still required to explore the full breadth of its possibilities, studies show that ACT can improve symptoms of various conditions. For example, it’s been proven to improve symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), particularly in older adults.
If you suffer from any of the concerns mentioned above, seeking Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) in NYC can be a good avenue to explore.
However, even if you’re unsure that you have any of these issues, it can be a good idea to consult a therapist about ACT if your inability to accept uncomfortable thoughts and feelings has negatively impacted your quality of life. For example, you may be having trouble with your relationships or difficulty coping with stress, but you’re unable to commit to making positive changes in your behavior to improve the situation — even when you want to.
THERAPISTS WHO CAN HELP
NYC Therapists Who Specialize in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)
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What Does Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) Look Like?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify which of our habits leads to more problems because we’re too used to the way we work.
During ACT, your therapist will guide you through a process of self-reflection and self-acceptance — you’ll learn to listen to the way you talk to yourself about difficult situations, like problematic relationships, traumatic events, physical limitations, and so on. You can examine your past thoughts and behaviors to identify what worked and what didn’t and figure out what you need to move past current challenges instead of fighting said thoughts and behaviors.
The process of ACT has six main components:
Acceptance: Acceptance is an active process that involves recognizing and embracing your inner thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to avoid, ignore, deny, or alter them, you can allow them to simply exist.
Cognitive Defusion: Cognitive defusion involves separating yourself from the way you react. Distancing yourself from your inner experiences allows you to dampen the effects of distressing thoughts and feelings. Techniques include observing thoughts without judgment and putting labels on your automatic responses.
Self as Context: The concept behind self-as-context is that people are more than their inner experiences. You can learn to see your thoughts about yourself as separate from your actions and identity.
Contact With the Present Moment: This involves being mindful of the present moment, keeping in touch with your surroundings, and learning to observe thoughts and feelings without change or judgment. The clarity this affords can help encourage behavior changes.
Values: Living in a way that’s true to your values is a core part of ACT. When you identify personal values in various areas and strive to live up to them, it can be a more powerful motivator for action. Your conviction in your values can outweigh a desire to avoid distressing situations or conform to other people’s expectations.
Committed Action: Commitment involves taking action to incorporate shifts in your behavior that lead to positive change. This can entail goal setting, skill development, or exposure to difficult thoughts or experiences.
Your therapist will help you learn and apply these concepts to your daily life. With this greater understanding, you’ll be better equipped to handle hardship and you can experience a renewed sense of purpose, peace, and happiness.
What if I’m Not Ready To Start Therapy?
Seeking professional help can be hard, especially when you’re inclined to avoid or deny your difficulties. If you’re not yet ready to commit to ACT but still want to start on the path to feeling better, here are some tips:
Try out ACT exercises you can do at home: This helpful resource from Positive Psychology includes seven ACT exercises, techniques, and metaphors that you can try yourself. Here’s an example called “Two Sides of the Same Coin”:
Think about an activity or relationship that you value but have recently retreated from. On a card or a piece of paper, write down what you value about it and what you hope to achieve/become through it. On the other side, write down difficult thoughts and feelings that come with the value or achievements you first wrote. Bring the card with you in your pocket or purse and take it out periodically over the next week. Every time you do, ask yourself — are you willing to accept both the good and the bad? Or would you rather throw away the card?
Try out mindfulness practices: Mindfulness has a lot in common with ACT and you can practice it anywhere — at home, school, work, or even at the grocery store. Its main requirements are just observing your thoughts without judgment and grounding yourself in the present when you feel your mind wander. This article from VeryWell Mind can help you learn more.
Seek support: Sometimes, being trapped in your head gets you nowhere. Reach out to a loved one that you trust and practice being more open about your thoughts and feelings with them. If you’re hesitant about opening up to someone you’re close to, try joining support groups to connect with people facing the same problem.
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Acceptance Commitment Therapy can help put you on the path to a deeper connection with your thoughts and feelings and improve your psychological flexibility. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of our therapists who specializes in Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) in NYC today.