Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): A Holistic Approach to Mental Health

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A lot of people ask me about my style of therapy. I lean on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), so let’s discuss exactly what that means. ACT combines mindfulness strategies with strategies for behavior change.

The primary goal of ACT is not to eliminate difficult feelings or thoughts. Instead, it encourages individuals to embrace their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting, denying, or avoiding them.

ACT operates on the principle that it’s not only harmful, but often counterproductive to try to control emotional experiences. Instead, it suggests that the path to wellbeing lies in accepting these experiences, identifying what is truly valuable to us, and committing to actions that align with these values.

The process of ACT involves six core principles: cognitive defusion, acceptance, contact with the present moment, the observing self, values, and committed action.

1. Cognitive Defusion: This involves learning to perceive thoughts, images, memories, and other cognitions as what they are—just thoughts, not what they appear to be (literal truths or commands that must be obeyed).

2. Acceptance: This is the process of making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, urges, and other private experiences, allowing them to come and go without struggling with them, running from them, or giving them undue attention.

3. Contact with the Present Moment: This involves bringing full, open, and receptive awareness to the present moment experience, engaging fully with your here-and-now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

4. The Observing Self: This is the aspect of you that is capable of pure awareness and attention, the part of you that is conscious of your consciousness itself.

5. Values: These are chosen life directions or guiding principles that are deeply important to us. They are not goals or outcomes but are dynamic, ongoing processes.

6. Committed Action: This involves setting meaningful goals guided by your values and taking effective action to achieve them.

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ACT is empirically supported and has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of psychological issues. These can include depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse, and even symptoms related to physical health conditions.

One of the most powerful aspects of ACT is its emphasis on defining success not as the removal of difficult feelings, but as living a meaningful life. By using mindfulness and acceptance skills, a person can learn to navigate painful thoughts and feelings more effectively, reducing their impact and influence over their life.

In conclusion, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a versatile and effective form of therapy. And, it can help individuals live fuller, more meaningful lives. By encouraging acceptance of unpleasant experiences and commitment to personal values, ACT offers a unique and empowering approach to personal growth and well-being.

About Michelle Paget and Rise & Flow Counseling | Denver, CO

I’m Michelle Paget, LCSW PMH-C RYT, the owner of Rise & Flow Counseling in Denver. CO. My expertise in perinatal and postpartum care allows me to offer tailored support, helping mothers to navigate their unique journeys with strength and resilience.

I offer a nurturing and understanding environment for new mothers, guiding you through the challenges and joys of this transformative time in your lives. My goal is to help you navigate these unique experiences with strength, resilience, and a sense of empowerment by providing exceptional therapy and counseling services. 

References and Further Reading on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

Harris, R. (2008). The happiness trap: How to stop struggling and start living.

Harris, R. (2019). ACT made simple: An easy-to-read primer on acceptance and commitment therapy (2nd ed.). New Harbinger Publications.

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