Acceptance and commitment therapy techniques

This blog will answer the question of “What are the techniques used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?” and examine its effectiveness and application in treating mental health issues.  

What are the techniques or principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

  • Cognitive defusion.
  • Expansion and acceptance.
  • Being Present
  • The Observing Self.
  • Values clarification.
  • Committed action

What is Acceptance and commitment therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) could be a therapy that increases the psychological Flexibility to cope with negative thoughts, emotions, or situations by changing the context of cognitive information.

This theory proposes that a person’s inability to vary even in unfavorable circumstances because of the conceptualized adverse outcomes results in disturbed status.

Techniques

ACT aims to cut back the inner struggle to manage or eliminate unpleasant or triggering life experiences while increasing involvement in meaningful life activities. Following are the six processes or techniques of ACT.

Acceptance

It is allowing oneself to experience the sentiments and thoughts which will spark negative emotions within without avoiding or altering them.

Cognitive defusion

To look at things dispassionately by removing oneself from things and looking out at them from an outsider’s perspective.

Self as context

This technique involves learning to determine one’s thoughts as break free their actions and entering into touch with the deep natural sense of self which is hidden deep within.

Being present

In this technique, an individual is inspired to explain or view ongoing events in a non-judgemental and defused way and be mindful of the current.

Values

This consists of the items, goals, and ideals of one’s life that motivate actions and direct the trail in life.

Commitment

To engage in actions and behavior that give value and meaning to life.

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What is Psychological Flexibility?

There are six processes employed to extend a person’s psychological Flexibility. Psychological Flexibility is the capability to be hospitable to all types of experiences-negative and positive-while doing things that follow the individual’s values.

Researchers have defined psychological Flexibility based on the measure of how a person:

Adapts to unpredictable and rapidly changing situational demands,

Restructuring of mental cognition

Changes point of view,

To maintain an optimum balance between conflicting desires, needs, and life domains.

The Effectiveness Of ACT as per The Research

In a study, the effectiveness of acceptance and defusion techniques was tested. The study examined the impact of acceptance and defusion techniques of ACT. The aim was to assess the effect of those techniques on pain tolerance (Hayes et al., 1999) as compared to a conventional CBT pain-management technique. The results were that there wasn’t any difference within the intensity of the pain after the intervention, but the participants within the ACT group could sustain keeping their hands in cold water longer than the opposite group. Also, participants within the acceptance condition showed lower levels of belief in pain-oriented reasons for action than the opposite groups. (Hayes et al., 2006)

Researchers also examined the effect of the cognitive defusion technique on negative self-referential thoughts through another study. 

Within the study, participants were tested by rapidly repeating an idea aloud until it lost its meaning. 

They investigated the impact of word repetition on the discomfort and believability of self-relevant negative thoughts compared to a distraction task (e.g., reading about Japan) or a plan control task involving breathing training and directions to shift attention to more pleasant thoughts. In an exceedingly series of alternating treatments designs (N= 8), the cognitive defusion technique was found to cut back discomfort and believability quite the comparison approaches. This proves the effectiveness of the cognitive defusion technique. 

Group control studies suggested that the effect wasn’t because of demand characteristics. (Hayes et al., 2006)

Research about the impact of ACT on individuals with addiction to habit also the merits of this approach with this identified population ( Larmar, Wiatrowski, & Lewis-Driver, 2014)

Thus, lots of research was administered to assess the efficacy and validity of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Applications

One of the important characteristics of ACT is that it has been proved effective in dealing with the stigma associated with seeking mental help. 

The stigma related to undergoing therapy often prevents people from accessing it. But with the emergence of ACT, things are changing. Research into the consequences of ACT for people with addictive behaviors and misuse of drugs has stressed the benefits of this therapy. 

People going through addiction are often wary and hesitant in accessing the rehabilitative support necessary to help them because of the misconceptions and stigma related to addictive patterns of behavior.

ACT manages to decrease r the stigmatizing effects of counseling on the individual by facilitating a process where the individual can learn to just accept themselves despite their addictive behaviors and negotiate a commitment to not revert to the old ways. 

The benefits of using the ACT for populations at risk of social stigma are significant. (Larmar, Wiatrowski, and Lewis-Driver, 2014)

The effectiveness of ACT-based interventions for people with depression, anxiety, specific phobias, and a spread of other diagnosed psychological state concerns has been demonstrated through multiple studies. 

ACT has been shown as a good treatment approach for assisting individuals within the psychosocial adjustment to pain management and diverse other psychological and physical disabilities.

It has been proved effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders such as Social Anxiety Disorder, Pain-related illnesses, as well as depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, eating disorders (Bulimia, anorexia, binge eating), Phobias, etc. 

Thus, there are many applications of Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapy in today’s day, and age and an increasing number of therapists are opting for it. 

12 Brief exercises used in ACT

Following are a few techniques utilized by therapists for the treatment of various mental health problems.

Decreasing the Pace and Connecting

This helps in being fully present at the moment and connecting with the surrounding.

Engaging with oneself

By greeting yourself in the morning, you can start your day with a burst of mindfulness.

Letting your mind wander

Instead of being irritated at your wandering state of mind, learn to accept and cherish it.

Savoring the food

By savoring the food, you can experience the joy and delight that good food provides in our everyday life.

Learning about your body. 

Use your hands to practice mindfulness by observing them and feeling the sensations by tracing each line and crevice.

Enjoying the stimulating sensations 

Enjoy the tactile, olfactory, and sensory stimulation provided by the warm cup of tea to attain mindfulness.

Balancing

Follow a few simple steps.

  • Stand up straight and let your arms fall to your sides. Breathe in deeply three times and, when you’re ready, close your eyes. Keep your attention focused on your breath. 
  • Move your attention to your posture and notice how you gently sway back and forth. Your body is in constant motion to keep you still. It’s forever finding and losing and finding its balance. Take a moment to notice how your body effortlessly and automatically does this. 
  • If your mind wanders and you find you’ve drifted off into your thoughts, simply be aware of this fact and gently bring your attention back to your balance.
  • After a minute or so, open your eyes and thank your body for its ongoing and continual ability to sustain your balance.

Hearing the World

Take a moment to listen to all sounds that you are surrounded by to understand and connect with your surroundings.

Feeling Gravity

Gravity influences everything on this planet and beyond. As with so many things, however, it’s easy to miss or forget about. Use this exercise to experience the pull of gravity.

  •  Find a place where you can safely close your eyes for 5–10 minutes. This exercise can be performed in any position that is while standing, sitting, or lying down, but to simplify things, let’s assume you are standing.
  •  Slowly take two or three deep breaths and allow your body to relax a little. Feel the air flow in through your nostrils and fill your lungs. 
  •  Now close your eyes and focus your attention on your feet on the ground. Feel their weight. They feel very heavy, right at the point where they touch the ground, as though they’re magnetic and you’re stuck to a steel planet. Become aware of the solid connection you have with the ground. Feel gravity pulling you downwards through your feet. The earth is huge beneath you, and its mass is drawing you down.  
  • When the mind loses focus and wanders, gently bring it back to noticing your experience of gravity pulling you downwards.
  •  When you’ve had enough of sensing your gravitational attraction to the planet, open your eyes and come back into the room.

Listening to Music

Music is a very effective means of practicing mindfulness because it can hold your attention in the present moment as you follow it. Any music will work, but you might like to try an instrumental piece for this exercise, without lyrics, so that your mind doesn’t focus on the words and try to analyze or judge them.

Conclusion

Thus in this blog, we answered the question of “What is Acceptance Theory and Commitment Therapy?” and learned and understood the techniques of Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as well as its applications and strategies that can be utilized in day to day lives.

What we recommend for Counselling

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ACT therapy work?

Yes, Acceptance and Commitment therapy does work, and this has been validated by consistent empirical research.

How effective is acceptance and commitment therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy has to be effective at reducing external shame, social anxiety, and difficulty in emotion regulation and its components, and for increasing psychological Flexibility and self-compassion

Who would benefit from ACT?

People suffering from mental distress or disorder arising from negative thoughts or emotions greatly benefit from this therapy. It has been found effective in dealing with psychological disorders like depression, social anxiety, etc., without any medications.

What are CBT and ACT?

CBT is a structured, systematic, and goal-oriented therapy that tries to change behavior patterns by changing the thinking process of the person. It proposes that thoughts are at the root of a person’s difficulties. Whereas ACT, which is based on behavioral therapy, encourages mindful, values-guided action. It proposes to accept the thoughts or situation instead of resisting it to decrease the psychological distress.

Is ACT therapy a type of CBT?

ACT differs from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In the ACT, instead of focusing on controlling the thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, and other private events, it focuses on accepting and embracing them, especially previously unwanted ones. 

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Used For?

ACT is third-wave behavioral therapy with a very helpful characteristic of reducing the stigma associated with seeking therapy to help with affected mental state. Hence it is widely used for several psychological and also pain-related issues. Predominantly, it is used for workplace stress training, anxiety-related issues, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. It is also effective in treating medical conditions such as chronic pain, diabetes, and substance issues.

References

Brown, F. J. (2016). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for dummies. John Wiley & Sons. 

Harris, R. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy training. Retrieved from https://www.actmindfully.com.au/acceptance_&_commitment_therapy

Hayes, Stephen C.; Luoma, Jason B.; Bond, Frank W.; Masuda, Akihiko; and Lillis, Jason, “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Model, processes and outcomes” (2006). Psychology Faculty Publications. 101.

https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/psych_facpub/101

Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological Flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health Clinical Psychology Review, 30 (7), 865-878 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.001

Larmar, S., Wiatrowski, S., & Lewis-Driver, S. (2014). Acceptance & Commitment Therapy: An Overview of Techniques and Applications. Journal of Service Science and Management, 07(03), 216–221. https://doi.org/10.4236/jssm.2014.73019

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