At one time or another, everyone experiences painful situations. To cope with the discomfort, people often try to avoid these events, feelings, and thoughts, hoping they will not need to address the cause of their suffering. Doing so may bring some relief in the short term, but the sense of resolution is rarely lasting, and avoidance is usually a cause for the worsening of the symptoms.
A number of therapeutic modalities focus on helping individuals eliminate the cause of their sadness and pain and have been shown to be effective. These strategies concentrate on modifying maladaptive behavior, thoughts, and beliefs that may be causing suffering.
Although eliminating what causes discomfort can, at times, be a favorable solution for the client, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) seeks to address the problems from another perspective.
In life, we may encounter challenging situations that are unchangeable and out of our control. ACT helps us learn to accept the discomfort, focus on our values and commit to actions that are consistent with our values, allowing us to benefit from a meaningful life despite our pain.
Utilizing mindfulness as one of its strategies, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps the individual stay focused on the present and accept emotions and thoughts without judgment For example, instead of labeling anger, fear, and sadness as “bad” emotions, ACT encourages us to accept them as part of our life experiences.
ACT is helpful to clients struggling with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, burnout, and grief.
The Roles of Acceptance and Commitment in ACT
ACT aims to help us adopt healthier ways of responding to difficult situations while giving attention to achieving our goals Through acceptance, clients can learn how to identify problems that are out of their control to change and accept them as part of their life, directing their efforts on managing rather than eliminating the challenge.
ACT places importance on the exploration of our values; What is important to us In what direction do we want our life to go? We can then determine what we need to do to live our lives in a way that is consistent with our values.
ACT emphasizes the need to focus on committed action, which based on our values, addresses what we CAN do to help us move forward with a purposeful and satisfying life.