Some people go through different kinds of therapy for their depression but find none of them effective. Though not as well-known as the others, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that can actually help you with your depression. Making use of acceptance and mindfulness strategies together with commitment and behavior-change strategies, ACT believes that instead of eliminating difficult feelings, a person’s psychological flexibility should be increased. They need to be present and able to maintain behaviors based on their personal values. Read on to find out how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can treat depression:
Absence of psychological flexibility has been proven to cause mental health problems. ACT commonly uses six processes to help the client develop psychological flexibility:
- Cognitive defusion – distancing yourself from your thoughts, feelings, or anything else that occupies your mind.
- Acceptance – allowing and embracing your inner experience as they come and go.
- Contact with the present moment – practicing awareness of what’s currently happening.
- The observing self – accessing the part of you that experiences and observes; the one that’s different from your judgment or memories.
- Values – discovering what is truly important to you. They guide you in getting to where you want to be in life.
- Committed action – setting goals according to your values and acting on them with responsibility.
Far different from other forms of psychotherapy which tell you to control your negative or irrational thoughts, ACT encourages you to be aware and accepting of them. Founder Steven Hayes explains, “When you meditate, you let your thoughts pass by like a cloud in the sky, noticing them rather than pushing them away. ACT is based on this idea,” It helps to simply notice thoughts that trouble you and even see them in a less serious way, such as describing them in colors and shapes (“My disappointment is grey and rectangular”). Moreover, there are various exercises and methods used in the therapy such as roleplays, metaphors, mindfulness exercises, and exploration of values.
Therapists aim to help someone change how they deal with their thoughts, emotions, and memories. This approach is best summed up through this acronym:
- A – Accept your reactions (thoughts and feelings) and be present
- C – Choose a valued direction
- T – Take action
Avoiding your thoughts and coping with them through temporary means can’t do anything good for you. For instance, overeating, social withdrawal, and substance abuse, will only make you suffer more. ACT helps you realize that pain and strong emotions are normal. You don’t have to fight them nor surrender yourself to them. Letting go of the struggle enables you to move toward a more meaningful life.
Depression is a real mental health condition that needs to be taken seriously. It may take time and patience, but you can overcome it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an effective approach that can help you achieve that. As a lesser known psychotherapy, it certainly proves worthy of attention. Not doing all the same usual methods, ACT works with you by helping you manage your inner self in a freeing, little less difficult, self-empowering way.
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