Have you re-enrolled for Medicaid? Learn more about changes that could affect your coverage.
(888) 909-2415 Terre Haute, IN
(888) 909-2415 Terre Haute, IN

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: an Overview

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy, also known as ACT, is an action-oriented, mindful type of psychotherapy used to help people overcome drug and alcohol addiction. ACT helps individuals  keep their focus on the present moment while accepting their feelings and thoughts without judgment. Developed in the 1980s by psychologist Steven C. Hayes, this form of therapy stems from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Understanding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a progressive form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It places a strong emphasis on embracing one’s thoughts and feelings rather than battling against them. At its core, ACT is about fostering a space of mindfulness and acceptance, guiding individuals to acknowledge their internal experiences without feeling the need to change or judge them. ACT encourages living by following one’s deeply held values, steering actions towards a life that is fulfilling and meaningful. Central to ACT is the idea that attempting to suppress or control unwanted thoughts and emotions can exacerbate suffering. Instead, it advocates for a compassionate acceptance of what is present, coupled with a commitment to act in ways that enrich one’s life.

The Six Core Processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy operates on six foundational processes designed to foster psychological flexibility, a cornerstone for effectively managing addiction. These intertwined processes guide individuals toward embracing their internal experiences and committing to actions that align with their values.

  1. The first process, acceptance, encourages embracing one’s thoughts and feelings without resistance. This acceptance is crucial in overcoming addiction, where fighting against cravings and emotions often leads to further turmoil. 
  2. Cognitive defusion, the second process, helps individuals alter their relationship with their thoughts, viewing them as mere words or images rather than truths that must control their actions.
  3. Present moment awareness, the third core process, focuses on connecting with the here and now, allowing individuals to engage fully with their current experience rather than getting lost in past regrets or future worries. This mindfulness-based approach is vital for recognizing and navigating triggers in a healthy manner.
  4. Self-as-context, the fourth process, involves viewing oneself from a broader perspective, acknowledging that one is more than their thoughts, feelings, or experiences. This process fosters a sense of continuity and resilience amidst life’s challenges.
  5. The fifth process, values, is about identifying what truly matters to the individual, serving as a compass for directing actions and decisions. This clarity of values is instrumental in guiding those recovering from addiction toward a life of meaning and purpose.
  6. Lastly, committed action, the sixth process, involves taking concrete steps towards living according to one’s values, even in the face of difficulties. This commitment to action reinforces the individual’s capacity to build a fulfilling life beyond addiction, emphasizing progress and adaptability over perfection.

Together, these processes help individuals navigate the complexities of addiction with greater ease and intention, supporting a journey toward recovery and well-being.

The Role of Mindfulness in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

In ACT, mindfulness is a pivotal element that enhances an individual’s ability to remain in the present moment. Mindfulness enables those battling with addiction to witness their cravings and emotional responses from a place of observation rather than an immediate reaction. Through the cultivation of mindfulness, ACT participants learn to detach from automatic thoughts and impulses that have traditionally led to substance use. Instead of being overwhelmed by these thoughts or feelings, individuals gain the ability to notice them, acknowledge their presence, and make conscious choices that align with their values and long-term goals.

Mindfulness in ACT is not only about noticing thoughts and feelings. It is about changing the relationship a person has with these mental events. By engaging in mindfulness practices, those in recovery can navigate the complexities of their inner world with compassion and patience, learning to coexist with their experiences without the need for escape through addiction. 

Do You Need Help With Drug or Alcohol Addiction?

Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease. It can affect anyone. If you or someone you care about is grappling with drug or alcohol addiction, Anabranch Recovery Center can help. Located in Terre Haute, Indiana, our skilled professionals will provide you with the resources and tools you need to live a sober life. It is time to take the first step to reclaiming your life. Contact us today.

About the author

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.