What Is A.C.T. & How Does It Work?

I have major anxiety, and I think that’s something that I’ve been able to say for most of my life. Unfortunately, it’s just something that I’m prone to. At the moment, it seems to be be worse than ever, which is partially due to the other mental health issues that I’m currently experiencing. I have major anxiety over people seeing me but, more than anything, I have a severe amount of anxiety over what people will think of me, even though that is out of my control. However, one form of therapy that I’ve just heard about is ACT – acceptance and commitment therapy

What Is ACT? 

ACT is revolved around letting go of trying to control painful emotions and experiences, rather than trying to better control them. It’s a focused approach to psychotherapy that aims to highlight trying to control painful emotions ends up in suppressing your feelings and, ultimately, results in more distress. As you’re not able to be in control of your painful emotions, you’ll find that your distress heightens as you won’t know how to get to grips with how you’re feeling. 

Instead, ACT focuses on the view that it’s important to be able to accept your psychological experiences, even if they may be distressful. Through the acceptance of your struggles and mental health issues that you may be facing, you’ll then be able to deal with those challenges a lot better. Likewise,  acceptance of these issues also paths the way for generating new positive thought patterns. 

ACT revolves around acceptance, commitment, and taking action. It’s all revolved around being present in the moment, accepting your emotions and feelings, committing to identifying your personal values, and practicing more optimistic behaviour. All in all, it’s very much a mindfulness practice. 

What ACT Does

One of the main skills that ACT teaches you is to listen to your own self-talk and how you’re coping with certain emotions or situations. As you become aware of how you deal with specific feelings or scenarios, you can decide whether it requires immediate action or whether you just need to accept it for what it is. 

This helps you learn that you cannot control all of the situations in your life and, instead, you need to learn how to accept your current state of being and work with that. ACT also enables one to determine their own personal values and goals and implement strategies of how to deal with situations in accordance to those. 

This form of therapy is usually seen to be used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. 

My Thoughts

To me, ACT sounds very much like it revolves around the same teachings that DBT offers. As somebody who has been in DBT for quite a while, I’m well aware that it’s revolved around self-acceptance and radical acceptance, learning how to accept a situation for what it is. 

DBT teaches you that, as you try to control your negative emotions and dwell on them, your distress is increased. By focusing on your suffering and being unable to control it, you’re prolonging your suffering even more. Instead, DBT teachings say that you should learn how to radically accept a situation for what it is and come to terms with how to effectively deal with it. 

However, ACT does sound interesting and it’s something that I would be more interested in learning about further. It sounds very much like it and DBT could work hand in hand to help one establish positive thought patterns and learn how to deal with their current situations, rather than trying to change them. 

Whereas DBT is very much a form of therapy that’s used to treat personality disorders, ACT sounds like it’s a more general approach to anxiety and depression. However, as long as it’s helping people, then it’s worthwhile. 

If you’re interested in learning more about ACT or learning the skills yourself, there’s even a self-help guide to help.

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