Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Is it for you? What you need to know about this useful and practical therapy style.

Do you often deny your feelings, avoid issues, or struggle with your inner emotions? Often think that your hardships are “unfair” or that you always get the short end of the stick? Want to learn how to face concerns head-on and move forward in your life? Maybe ACT is for you.

What is ACT?

Acceptance and commitment therapy, also known as ACT, is an action-oriented approach to therapy that stems from a mix of traditional behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. This practice helps you to stop avoiding or denying your inner emotions and instead helps you to accept your feelings as an appropriate response to the situation at hand. In other words, the way you feel about something or the way you react to hardships shouldn’t hold you back from advancing in your life. ACT can help you accept issues and hardships and commit to necessary changes in your life regardless of how you feel about them. This therapy can help treat workplace stress, text anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and even various medical problems such as diabetes or chronic pain.

How does it work?

ACT works by allowing a person to change their behavior while learning to accept their psychological experiences at the same time. It helps the user to gain control of negative thoughts and feelings while practicing more confident and optimistic behaviors. It helps people realize that personal responsibility is important and once you stop repeating behaviors that cause you problems, you can set yourself up for continued successes.

For example, if you suffer from test anxiety, ACT is an excellent therapy to help you work on this issue. If you go to school tests will be a major part of your life; there’s no way to get around them. Everyone gets a little nervous on test day, but if you experience incredible stress and anxiety as a result of an exam, it can cause poor grades and loads of unnecessary feeling of inadequacy and worry. ACT can help you by getting to the bottom of why exams cause you so much distress and then allow you face these issues head-on, so you find ways to lessen your anxiety on test days. Essentially, tests are a part of your life, so accepting them and committing to changing your mindset and reducing self-limiting talk can help you make exams much less detrimental to your daily life.

Do you think that ACT is for you?

If you like the sound of acceptance and commitment therapy and want to try it yourself, the first step is finding a qualified therapist. There is no special certification for ACT, but those trained in ACT have most likely acquired ACT-related skills from peer counseling, workshops, or training programs. The most important thing to remember is that there is help out there and speaking to a qualified mental health professional is the first step.

Besma (Bess) Benali, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, MSW, RSW, Counselling Ottawa Nepean. I am trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Brief Psychodynamic Therapy, ACT, and mindfulness. Clients come to me because they are struggling and feel like they are trapped in a darkness that no matter what they have tried (and many have tried therapy before) they can’t pull themselves out. I help my clients understand themselves in ways no one has ever taught them before allowing them to see positive changes.