Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT for short, is a therapeutic approach that stems from feelings of acceptance and action. It states that you can take actions without eliminating or changing your feelings. The core of ACT is both a change in self-talk (internal) and verbal behavior (external).
Rather than fighting against the situation, online ACT therapy is based on the premise of accepting the situation for what it is. One of the primary goals of ACT is to accept what is outside our personal control, especially unwanted feelings, thoughts, and urges, and commit to more productive actions.
If you want to enhance your psychological flexibility, i.e., the ability to stay in touch with the present moment and be true to your values, online ACT therapy may be just the thing for you. ACT helps you stay committed not only to thoughts but also actions.
What Is ACT Therapy All About?
The goal of ACT is not symptom reduction. That reduction is simply a by-product of a more comprehensive process. Imagine it this way, if you want to reach the peak of the mountain, the goal is not to lose some weight, but rather to achieve something big. Losing weight is just extra!
Embracing your inner demons and following your heart can be a difficult process, but online ACT therapy helps simplify this process. The tools and techniques of this online therapy help accept reality for how it is. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything, but that certain circumstances ultimately do need to be accepted.
To facilitate the therapy process, acceptance and commitment therapy has six core processes. Let’s go over each one.
According to ACT therapy, acceptance comes from the ability to feel negative emotions but let them go without struggling with them or giving them too much attention. It explores questions like “if you feel a negative emotion, will you struggle to let go of it, or lean into it and experience it as it is?” The emphasis is on “unhooking” yourself from thoughts and emotions that don’t always lead to an action.
2. Contact with the present moment
The COVID-19 pandemic has made most of us feel anxious about our future. Thinking about the future isn’t wrong, but it sometimes takes us away from the present. Online counseling helps us ground ourselves to the present and engage with our current situation. We often get lost in our thoughts, and contacting the present moment helps us disengage from the past or future and engage with our reality.
3. Cognitive defusion
Cognitive defusion in online therapy means looking at thoughts rather than getting overly engaged with them or getting caught up with them. The aim of this process in ACT therapy is not to get rid of unwanted thoughts but to reduce the influence of unhelpful thoughts on behavior.
4. Self as context
ACT recognizes that you are probably the best judge of yourself. In this process, you put yourself in the observer’s point of view and see your thoughts and feelings with an objective lens. Do you ever find yourself caught in an emotional storm or a thought cloud? If yes, seeing yourself with an objective lens takes you out of the loop and helps you see yourself more realistically.
As you go along, ACT therapy also helps recognize the core values and principles that help you lead a fulfilling life. ACT therapy techniques and exercises help determine directions in various domains of life, such as family, career, and so on, while undermining verbal responses that may create conflict with yourself or others.
6. Committed action
Finally, ACT helps build a system of well-being. Counseling helps develop larger and larger patterns of effective actions that are linked to your values. The therapy process helps you recognize the actions that matter to you and meet both short-term and long-term goals.
All the processes in acceptance and commitment therapy overlap and are interrelated. During counseling, these processes integrate to form a whole and support your progress towards psychological health and flexibility. Let’s explain how that works.
How Does ACT Therapy Work?
Like any other online counseling approach, ACT begins with rapport building. Clients often come up with questions like “why is it so hard to be happy?” and “why is life so difficult?” The ACT therapist helps answer such questions.
The first step to seeking ACT therapy is to understand another thing the acronym ACT stands for: A stands for accepting your thoughts and emotions and simply being present; C indicates choosing a valued direction, and T stands for taking action. In online therapy, you as a client will learn certain mindfulness skills that help handle painful thoughts and feelings in such a way that they have less influence on you.
Each core process serves a function for the individual and also works in varying contexts. If you have anxiety, as a part of acceptance, you will be asked and taught to feel anxiety fully, without any defenses. ACT also attempts to change the way you interact with or relate to thoughts by creating contexts in which their functions are diminished. For example, to defuse a disturbing thought, the therapist might ask you to place that thought in the lyrics of a song.
For being present, you may be assisted to see language as more than just a tool for communication. It can be used not only to predict behavior but also to describe it in detail for you. In ACT, the six processes are not end goals by themselves; rather, they clear the path for a more vital, value-consistent life. One way they do so is with the help of ACT therapy techniques.
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What Are ACT Therapy Techniques?
In ACT therapy, techniques are used only on the basis of their “workability,” meaning that if they help you live a rich and meaningful life, then they are workable.
Two sides of the same coin
This exercise requires you to think about a relationship or activity from which you have retreated recently. On one side of the paper, you write about its pros, and on the other, you write about its cons. After a week, look back at the paper and decide whether you want to embrace both sides or avoid both sides.
Leaves on a stream
This ACT therapy technique requires you to sit quietly with your eyes closed, then to imagine a stream of water running along in front of you. Each time a thought arises in your mind, imagine placing the thought in a leaf, putting it in the stream, and watching it sail gently away. This technique helps defuse negative thoughts.
ACT therapy incorporates creativity in all the techniques. In this activity, you see different aspects of yourself and greet them as different actors on the stage. This exercise allows you to visualize parts of yourself and see them appear and depart.
The sky and the clouds
In this exercise, the therapist asks you to imagine your mind as the sky and the clouds as your thoughts. A similar exercise involves you repeating a difficult thought aloud again and again until the phrase loses its meaning and becomes just sounds.
Does ACT Work With Online Therapy?
One of the most promising advantages of ACT is that the exercises guided by your therapist can be easily executed online with online therapy. The power of ACT is in its simplicity.
ACT is not limited to a specific method or technology but makes use of a host of methods and modalities to facilitate its core processes. Acceptance and commitment therapy online follows an approach that values mindfulness, acceptance, and value-guided behavioral exercises rather than control and cognitively-challenging exercises. This approach translates well to the online medium.
Online ACT therapy is effective in dealing with feelings of anxiety and depression. It is also easier to start, more affordable, and is capable of reaching a broader range of people. This helps overcome many of the barriers of face-to-face therapy, such as geographical distance, social stigma, and price.
Is Online ACT Therapy for Me?
ACT has been scientifically studied and shown to be effective for a wide range of conditions, including anxiety and depression. To know whether ACT is suitable for you, try answering this question: who do you think ACT is not suitable for?
Almost everyone likes to be more psychologically present, more in touch with their values, and more able to take effective action in the face of emotional discomfort, irrespective of how they’re feeling.
The primary goal of online ACT therapy is self-reliance and regulation. No matter the difficulties you’re facing, you may find ACT beneficial in giving you the right perspective and support needed to live your life well and enjoy it fully. The idea behind seeking counseling is to gain control over your life and circumstances, and at DoMental, we can help you do just that.