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  1. #1
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    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Overview

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
    Urban Monk
    February 20, 2011

    Overview:
    ACT provides an entirely different approach to handling painful thoughts and feelings. There are six main principles in ACT: Defusion, Acceptance, the Observing Self, Contacting the Present Moment, Values, and Committed Action. Essentially, the first four principles mean we take a step back from engaging in our thoughts and emotions, therefore create space for them to be without wallowing in them or, conversely, trying to fix them.

    The last two principles are concerned with our external world instead of our thoughts and feelings. By connecting with and clarifying our values, and committing to effective action, we begin to build a meaningful life.

    My experiences:
    This section might be a bit funny, because I haven’t used ACT in my life at all, yet still feel like I can give a good review. Please let me explain. The first four principles are very similar to the practices, such as mindfulness, that were critical for me when I started coming out of depression, many years ago. In that sense, I have been using ACT for years. In those days, I was completely identified with my painful thoughts and feelings – the thoughts that tortured me literally every single second of my waking life (I tried counting them once). However, learning to distance myself and be the observer of these thoughts and feelings – realising the difference between “I have anger in me” and “I am angry” was one of the most powerful shifts I have ever experienced.

    Secondly, emotions hurt because we resist them – if we welcome them, they diminish in waves, and eventually disappear. This was another major shift for me (and you can read about them in an old article on Emotional Mastery, and coincidentally, that article describes the emotional “technique” I used in conjunction with CBT). I haven’t had time to explore the last two principles in-depth, so I can’t review those. Being in the Present Moment is a special case, and has to be left for a separate article.

    To find out more:
    If accepting your thoughts sounds better than disputing them, ACT might be the way to go. Also, I’ve met people who didn’t want to explore spiritual or Buddhist techniques (like mindfulness) due to fears that it will clash with their religion and beliefs. Despite the overlaps, ACT is completely separated from spirituality and religion, and so fits well with everyone.

    To find out more, try the Act Mindfully website. It has an excellent overview of ACT and some free PDFs for further reading. If you want a proper book, I like The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. Don’t be turned off by the title, which makes it sound like some shallow self-help book. It’s actually very good, and most of the other books available are aimed at the therapist, not the everyday reader.

  2. #2
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    Re: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Overview

    If I had to summarise ACT on a t-shirt, it would read: ‘Embrace your demons, and follow your heart.’

    ~ Russel Harris, MD, author of The Happiness Trap

  3. #3
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    Re: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Overview

    I'm currently reading a book about ACT. It's so totally different than anything else I have tried. But I really do believe it's worth trying. Nothing else has seemed to work through the years.

    I do think it's going to be hard though. I have always tried so hard to fight all the feelings, thoughts, memories,etc., so to just 'accept' them will be a challenge. But it does make sense though. If I'm going to have all these thoughts/feelings anyway,regardless of what I do to avoid them, accepting them seems like the logical thing to do.

    The book I'm reading is for anxiety disorders, but I'm sure it can be applied to just about anything. Like suicidal thoughts/feelings. I'm wondering if I could learn to accept those thoughts/feelings,would that work better than fighting them? They do always pass anyway, even though they seem so strong and permanent at the time i'm having them.

  4. #4
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    Re: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Overview

    Would you mind sharing the name of the book, Lost_in_Thought?

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  6. #6
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    Re: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Overview

    I think i could benefit from this technique. I have dealt with a lot of "loss" in the past year. I do practice mindfulness and perhaps a few others. The key i suppose is to remember them when things are really tough. Today, for instance, i would consider very difficult. The facts of my life haven't changed, only my thinking and outlook on the world. I suppose when I do not accept my feelings/situation in life, i suffer, but when i do accept it, everything is relatively better. I guess i need to practice more.:concern:

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