What is ACT Therapy?

“ACT” stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (it is pronounced as one word, never as individual letters). The theory starts with the assumption that events happen in our lives that we interpret as bad, painful, or the cause of our suffering. Abuse, trauma, physical and mental illness, natural disaster, and war all result with human suffering. Even if there was world peace, the end of hunger, climatic stability, and a cure for every disease, events will still occur that will cause us pain and, although it may be hard to imagine, those who appear to have successful lives will also struggle. Why? If there is no struggle, there is no personal or spiritual growth. “No mud, no lotus” as the Buddhists say. If we experience pain, our natural response is to avoid that which caused it. This avoidance leads to suffering because the only way to overcome suffering is to directly face and allow to be that which causes us to suffer. This is why you have heard that in order to overcome your fears, for example, you must face them. Suffering is handled the same way; everyone must “take up their cross.”

Some of the concepts that ACT will teach are:

  • Psychological pain is normal, important, and everyone has it.
  • You cannot get rid of psychological pain, but you can take steps to avoid increasing it.
  • Pain and suffering are two different states of existence.
  • You don’t have to identify with your suffering. You can choose inner peace.
  • Accepting your pain is a step toward ridding yourself of suffering.
  • You can live the life you value, but to do that you have to get out of your mind and into your life.
    (From: Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes, PhD)

What ACT will ask of you is a fundamental change in perspective, a shift in the way you deal with your personal experience. Many of us think life is a personal struggle, an individual fight to survive, as in “me against the world.” As much as we want to win the fight, the reality is that the fight never seems to stop and it doesn’t usually go very well. There is an option we often miss: at any time we can walk away from the fight. Not in defeat, but in acceptance of what it is–a fight that does not necessarily need to be happening! We accept that there is a fight in which we are involved but we’re not exerting all of the mental and physical energy of actual battle.

By walking away, we choose to relegate the outcome of the fight to something much less important. Win or lose, who cares? Believe it or not, our thinking minds, also known as our ego, is what keeps us in the fight. ACT will teach you to be more aware of your thinking and mindful of how your thinking affects how you feel and how you behave. ACT will use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, as well as mindfulness-based stress reduction to change negative thought patterns and divert attention from our thinking minds. You will learn that you are not your thinking mind, that there is a You that is “life in all its fullness, a good that has no opposite.” (Eckhart Tolle). Let’s bring an end to your suffering and start living a life that is more oriented to what you care about most! Click in the blue box below to contact me.

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