Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

There are dozens of therapy modalities that fall under the broader umbrella of psychology.

One of those techniques is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT. This treatment approach has been scientifically studied and is proven to be an effective therapy for people in addiction recovery.

What is ACT?

ACT is a psychological treatment approach that is based on the key principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Relational Frame Theory.

The goal of ACT is to enable individuals to accept their inner emotions and feelings, rather than deny them or avoid them altogether. It allows individuals to realize that their emotions shouldn’t prevent them from living a healthy and fulfilling life.

When someone learns to accept their current state of being, they can commit to making changes in their behavior to improve their mental health and overall wellbeing. The client regains control of their life and learns to understand that their thoughts, feelings, and emotions are not a roadblock to recovery.

The acceptance piece of ACT shouldn’t be confused with avoidance. In fact, ACT can be beneficial for people who struggle to come to terms with their personal issues and emotions. Acceptance simply means to allow negative emotions and thoughts to occur without feeling the impulse to act on them. It eliminates unhealthy and unproductive responses which can exacerbate those feelings.

mindfulness for recovery

History of ACT

ACT was developed in 1986 by Steven Hayes, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada.

ACT was developed in 1986 by Steven Hayes, a psychology professor at the University of Nevada. Hayes believed that pain and suffering are inevitable parts of the human experience and therefore, those emotions shouldn’t be avoided. He went on to say that addressing and accepting pain and suffering can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment and that running away from problems often leads to other issues.
stages of alcoholism

If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

How Does ACT Work?

ACT is technically categorized as a mindfulness-based therapy and is often used in conjunction with other self-acceptance techniques.

ACT is technically categorized as a mindfulness-based therapy and is often used in conjunction with other self-acceptance techniques. It draws on six core processes that make up the general framework of ACT. The core processes include:
  1. Acceptance: The client makes the choice to allow unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings to exist, without denying them, changing them, or avoiding them.
  2. Cognitive Defusion: The client learns to change their reaction to negative thoughts and feelings, with the understanding that you can’t run away from triggering situations in real life.
  3. Being Present: In this stage, the client learns to focus on the present moment, without attempting to predict or somehow change their current reality.
  4. Self as Context: This process sheds light on the fact that everyone has a self outside of their current lived experience. In other words, we are not defined by our experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
  5. Values: In the values stage, clients choose which qualities and values they want to improve upon, and set goals for themselves in recovery.
  6. Committed Action: The last step is when clients commit to acting on their values and goals, which assists with long-term recovery and sobriety.
evidence based therapies
Self-observation is one of the main components of ACT therapy. It requires individuals to reflect internally and detach from their negative thoughts. In an ACT therapy session, a psychotherapist will ask the client to explain the experiences, beliefs, and emotions that are holding them back. The therapist can then help the client let go of those thoughts using acceptance and mindfulness practices.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

How is ACT Used in Addiction Recovery?

For people in addiction treatment programs, ACT can be extremely beneficial.

ACT is an evidence-based therapy, which means it has been researched by independent organizations and its effectiveness has been scientifically proven. Most addiction treatment programs utilize ACT techniques during every stage of the recovery process.

Many individuals develop a substance abuse issue because they want to numb their negative emotions with drugs or alcohol. It becomes a way to cope with traumatic experiences or silence unhealthy thought patterns. Addiction often stems from emotional avoidance, because facing negative emotions can be so distressing.

ACT is a good solution for recovering addicts because it helps them come face-to-face with those negative emotions. They learn to accept their emotions without avoiding them or acting on quick impulses. Once those feelings have been accepted, the person learns how to cope in a healthy way without turning to drugs or alcohol.

Can ACT be Used for Mental Health Treatment?

Many therapists employ ACT techniques when treating clients with mental health disorders, like depression, anxiety, stress, trauma-related conditions, and even chronic pain.

Anyone who is struggling with negative thought patterns, trauma, or mental distress can benefit from ACT. It teaches people how to accept their limiting beliefs and how to commit to changing their mindset.

Because ACT falls under the category of mindfulness techniques, it’s a good complement for many other mental health treatments. Therapists may use ACT alongside CBT, DBT, and EMDR therapy. Some therapists recommend that clients focus on their own personal mindfulness practice, like meditation and breathwork, to strengthen the work of ACT therapy.

ACT can also be beneficial for people who deal with fear-based disorders, like social anxiety and phobias, because ACT teaches them that they can live with their anxieties. For example, if someone is eager to find a partner but has anxiety around dating, they are encouraged to go on dates anyway. The process of accepting their emotions, and committing to facing their fears rather than avoiding them, in the central concept of ACT.

evidence based therapies
Like all treatments, ACT involves dedication from the client. They must be willing to open up and commit to making a positive change in their life. Facing your fears is never enjoyable or comfortable at first, but it does get easier over time. And with the right coping mechanisms, you can overcome emotional disturbances and regain control of your life.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or a co-occurring disorder, help is available. Contact our team at (888) 855-6877 to learn about the treatment services we offer at Nexus Recovery.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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