Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT, pronounced as the whole word) is a treatment approach that emphasizes mindfulness, acceptance, and behavior change. At the core of ACT is what therapists refer to as psychological flexibility. This is a person’s ability to be present at the moment and to respond to any situation life throws at them. The goal is to become adaptable to situations in line with your values.
One helpful way of understanding ACT is to take a look at the diagram below, called the ACT “hexaflex model.” Where flexibility is the center of each principle.
Acceptance is rejecting the desire to avoid our thoughts and feelings. This means we do not distract from, change, or avoid our difficult private experiences. Instead, we welcome and embrace them. Our instinct is to avoid our difficult emotions, however, ACT teaches us to do the approach them. Acceptance is a bridge to increasing our engagement with behaviors that support our values.
Cognitive defusion is a method for changing the way that we interact with our thoughts. For example, many of us have the thought of “I am not good enough.” We tend to become attached to these kinds of thoughts and behave as if they are true. Cognitive defusion strategies help us separate ourselves from our thoughts, observe them as what they are (just thoughts), and reduce our attachment to them. These strategies can include labeling the fact that we are having a thought (“I’m having the thought that I’m not good enough), repeating it out loud until it no longer has meaning (repeat the word “milk” out loud for 30 seconds and see what happens), or externalizing the thought (naming your self-critical voice).
Contact with the Present
Much of our distress comes from intentional or unintentional efforts to escape the present moment. In ACT, we encourage you to get in touch with what is happening in the moment. This means you will be invited to tune into your current thoughts, emotions, and physical feelings in a way that is non-judgmental. Individuals often try to reduce symptoms through ACT therapy, such as depression or anxiety. Often in therapy, we focus on what we are afraid will happen in the future. Or, we address regrets from the past. Through mindfulness practices during ACT, you can become more grounded in the present, which helps to reduce these feelings.
Self as Context
Self as the context is described as the idea that we are not our thoughts or feelings (both physical and emotional). For example, sometimes we think negative things about ourselves and believe that these thoughts are true. Or, we sometimes experience intense emotions that are difficult. This leads us to believe that these emotions define us. Through ACT exercises, we learn to see that we are not defined by our thoughts and feelings. In fact, our thoughts and feelings can and do change. One example of this is the leaves on a stream exercise in which we visualize leaves floating down a stream and as we notice thoughts come into our mind, we place them on leaves and watch them float away.
Values are specific to each person. Our values are what give our actions meaning. Through ACT, we learn to identify our values in different life domains (such as education, career, or hobbies). For example, one could value courage or kindness in their career, while another person could value creativity and achievement. Oftentimes, we do not engage with our values for a number of reasons. This could be due to fear, familial pressure, or societal norms. The other elements of the ACT hexaflex model assist us in moving toward a more values-driven life.
The last piece of ACT is committed action. This means we take behavioral steps to move toward our values. This is done through exposure therapy exercises. We use worksheets that help us understand what actions move us toward certain values or away from others, iin order to set goals. To engage in committed action, we usually have to face a lot of the things that we may have been avoiding. For example, for someone who has social anxiety, this may mean speaking up in class in order to move toward their values of openness and authenticity with others. Through acting in line with our values, we often notice that the things we feared become less scary over time. While values have no end goal, committed action often involves setting achievable goals.
Why We Value Our Approach to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in Madison, WI?
These six processes come together to increase our psychological flexibility and allow us to engage with the world in a way that is more authentic and fulfilling. An ACT approach emphasizes one’s personal values, which are often culturally bound or shaped by our identities. Thus, ACT works very well for people from a diverse range of experiences with regard to culture, race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. This is why it is so important to our therapy practice and falls in line with our therapists in Madison, WI. We look forward to working with you to achieve your goals and become present with your thoughts and feelings.
Begin ACT Therapy in Madison, WI Today!
When you are ready to start therapy, we are here for you. We offer Acceptance and Commitment Therapy among other treatment modalities. Our therapists all have different viewpoints, but that's why we are able to provide such diverse and effective services. You will be placed with a therapist suited for your needs. We do understand, getting started with a new therapist can itself be a source of stress and worry, so we strive to simplify this process for you. Our Madison, WI-based therapists offer therapy anywhere in the state via online therapy in Wisconsin. To get started, just follow these simple steps:
Call our office at 608-571-0558 or e-mail us to make an appointment
Start finding peace and happiness through accepting your thoughts, feelings, and experiences today!
More Mental Health Services at Golden Vibes Counseling Center
At our Madison, WI therapy clinic, we understand that not everyone has the same needs. That's why we offer a wide range of services geared at helping your and your unique needs. In our counseling office, we offer effective online counseling in Wisconsin. We are truly ready to meet you where you are at. Our skilled therapists can help you using a variety of approaches including CBT, EMDR, and Brainspotting. These methods can help with sexual assault recovery, depression treatment, anxiety therapy, OCD treatment, therapy for children, PTSD treatment and trauma therapy, college students, exposure therapy, ART therapy, reproductive or maternal mental health, multicultural counseling, and more. We also specialize in LGBTQAI+ counseling and poly-affirming therapies and can assist with gender-affirming care. We are committed to helping empower all people’s wellness journeys through access to reliable, unbiased, and non-pathologizing mental health treatment, we look forward to meeting you as an individual.