What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
According to the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a unique psychological intervention. ACT uses acceptance, mindfulness, commitment, and behavioral change-based strategies to promote psychological flexibility. Moreover, psychological flexibility supports becoming fully present in order to be able to change or persist in situations based on your chosen values. As a model of healing, ACT can help clients reconnect with their body, mind, and spirit in recovery.
The Importance of ACT
As we know, the struggles of substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring mental health disorders have an interconnected relationship with psychological distress. When we attempt to control or ignore negative thoughts, it becomes easier to engage in unhealthy behaviors like self-medicating. In trying to bury our heads in the sand, the intensity and frequency of our distress only increases. This discomfort over negative, intrusive thoughts makes it difficult to work toward creating healthier long-term thought and behavior patterns.
The 6 Core Principles of ACT
There are six core principles of psychological flexibility within the ACT care model. The six core principles of ACT are used to support clients as they make non-judgmental contact with the present moment.
Alternative to avoidance
Embrace the past without judgment or change
Change the way we interact or relate to negative thoughts
Decrease believability or attachment to negative thoughts
Experience the world more directly
Develop more flexible behavior to align actions with values
Encourage non-judgmental thoughts and feelings
Self as context
Awareness of experiences without attachment or investment
Choose values based on purposeful action
Exercises to support choosing life directions
Encourage effective patterns of action linked to chosen values
ACT and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an important part of ACT and building psychological flexibility for self-awareness. In gaining self-awareness, we can start to fully live in the present moment without judgment of ourselves and our past experiences. Mindfulness-based interventions can support clients in developing new ways of thinking about themselves, others, and the world around them. According to an article from the Cognitive and Behavioral Practice Journal, researchers have found that mindfulness is a key strategy in developing non-judgmental acceptance of internal experiences and supports individuals in moving away from avoidance-based thinking.
The goal is not to erase negative thinking or feelings, as life can be filled with happiness, sadness, joy, fear, and other complex and multifaceted experiences. Constant positivity also is an unhealthy approach. The ability to experience a full range of emotions is important to a person’s overall health, impacting how we cope, process, and learn from our experiences. Through mindfulness, clients can discover objectivity. Through this process, they can learn how to observe, detach, and fully accept both positive and negative thoughts and feelings. Learning to accept all emotions and feelings without using unhealthy behaviors to cope is a step toward building a healthier way of living.
To learn more about mindfulness, visit our Mindfulness page.
How Can ACT Help in Recovery?
Intrusive negative thoughts can be detrimental to a person’s mental health, largely because these types of thinking patterns often lead to avoidance behavior. Avoidance behavior may include many unhealthy choices and behaviors, including denial and distractions. Many people look to substances or other external factors as an escape from the emotions that feel too difficult to confront. Without the foundational support of life-skills and coping strategies, it can be difficult to live with negative thoughts and feelings.
For those struggling with SUD and/or co-occurring mental health disorders, ACT can help facilitate building skills and strategies to support the holistic journey to recovery. With ACT, clients can start learning how to accept what they can and can not control as they begin living fully in the present moment. Engaging in acceptance and remaining in the present means being able to recognize thoughts and feelings without allowing the negative thoughts to become intrusive. This allows for the creation of healthier thinking and behavior patterns built on values rather than on avoidance behavior.
ACT at Emerge Recovery TX
At Emerge Recovery TX, we believe in supporting the whole person in body, mind, and spirit. Intrusive thoughts can make it difficult to create healthier thought patterns, habits, and behaviors to support long-term well-being. With this in mind, we have built our curriculum and treatments around helping women emerge fully in the present with ACT. We will serve as a guide through the recovery journey, to aiding clients as they reconnect with self, learn to let go of self-judgment, gain more awareness, and make healthier choices based on core values rather than negative thoughts. As we learn to let go of unhealthy behaviors and habits associated with negative, intrusive thoughts, we can start building a fulfilling life in the present.
To learn more about how ACT can help you on your recovery journey, visit our Trauma Recovery page.
With ACT, you can start building healthier coping strategies to manage negative intrusive thoughts on your recovery journey. At Emerge Recovery TX, we use ACT to help you reconnect, build self-awareness, and find fulfillment in long-term recovery as you fully emerge as a healthier you in body, mind, and spirit. Call us today at (737) 237-9663 to learn how ACT can support you in recovery from SUD and co-occurring disorders.