ACT Therapy (acceptance and commitment therapy) is a type of therapy that is based in applied behavior analytic principles that address both internal and external behaviors. ACT therapy uses six processes to help people improve their behavior and their emotional regulation.
Six Processes of ACT Therapy
- VALUES is the center of ACT Therapy. Values will look different for each individual, and may not align with our own individual values. We experience two types of values, the first being short term. Short term values are immediate and quick, an example being, “I feel hungry, I value finding food and feeding myself”. We also have long term values, an example being, “I want to have a steady relationship with my friends and coworkers”. Both values are equally important as they shape our behaviors and can help motivate us in the present as well as the future. We need to dig deep to understand what our true values are. When we do this we are able to better understand ourselves and how to motivate ourselves to push forward and make meaningful changes in our lives. Part of our ACT Therapy treatment is time invested in figuring out what our clients value. We may need to do some digging and exploring to see what truly makes our heart tic. Creating “to do lists” or visuals of our values can be very beneficial, as a consistent reminder of what it is that we strive and work towards.
- PRESENT MOMENT AWARENESS targets people being fully present in the moment they are in. So often in life we miss out on reinforcement because we are distracted by things outside of the actual moment we are in. ACT therapy helps people practice being present in each moment being more aware of their behaviors and how they impact the world around them. It is very important in treatment to encourage being in the present moment. Often we find ourselves doing things impulsively or habitually that can slow down progress of working towards our values. Tools we use to stay in the present moment can be simple things such as setting an alarm on your phone every hour to remind yourself to emerge yourself in the present moment. You will then start forming new habits of identifying the consequences of your behaviors and actions which can guide you in the right direction of your short term and long term values.
- CONTEXTUAL SELF/PERSPECTIVE TAKING– This process helps people look at situations from different perspectives. So often we cause ourselves trouble due to the rigid perspectives we have. When we are able to broaden our perspective this often helps us have less stress, change our behavior and have better relationships. Perspective taking is a tough one! We have all been in a situation where it is extremely difficult to see the other side of the coin. Practicing perspective taking and understanding another’s point of view can be so helpful when working towards your values. We often refer to being “stuck” to one of the famous programs “SuperFlex”, as “rock brain”. When we can shift our perspective, we may learn a thing or two about ourselves, our environment and our values!
- ACCEPTANCE is an important step of self regulation. There are many things in life that we cannot control and we waste a lot of time, energy and emotional anguish focusing on those things. ACT therapy targets acceptance skills to help you cope with the non preferred things of life. Acceptance does not mean that you like it, it simply means you are not going to fight it. You accept that it exists.
- DIFFUSION is the process of separating from our emotions so they are not the boss of us. Often we feel like we are victims of our own emotions. In ACT therapy you work on strategies to help move toward your values regardless of what you might be feeling on the inside. ACT therapy also helps people to not avoid their emotions and process them instead, so we don’t unintentionally cause damage to our lives with our avoidant behaviors.
- COMMITTED ACTION is specifying the exact action and plan that you need to do in order to move toward your values. Committed action should include a plan for the here and now, and long term.
Check out this youtube video for more info on ACT!
Listen to this Podcast on ACT Therapy in our field!