| What makes it Different?|
ACT differs from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy
(CBT) in that rather than trying to teach people to better control their
thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events, ACT teaches
them to “just notice”, accept, and embrace their private events, especially
previously unwanted ones.In contrast to the assumption of ‘healthy normality’
of Western psychology, ACT assumes that the psychological processes of a normal
human mind are often destructive and create psychological suffering, generated
by experiential avoidance and emotional control.
Symptom reduction is not a goal of ACT, based on the view
that on-going attempts to get rid of ‘symptoms’ can create clinical disorders
in the first place. In ACT, the aim is to transform our relationship with our
difficult thoughts and feelings, so that we no longer perceive them as
‘symptoms’. Instead, we learn to perceive them as harmless, even if
uncomfortable, transient psychological events. Ironically, it is through this
process that ACT actually achieves symptom reduction – but as a by-product and
not the goal.
| What is the goal of ACT?|
The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. ACT training is about taking effective action guided by our deepest values and in which we are fully present and engaged. It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life. Of course, as we attempt to create such a life, we will encounter all sorts of barriers, in the form of unpleasant and unwanted ‘private experiences’ (thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges, and memories).
ACT provides skills, along with a wide range of experiential exercises and values-guided behavioural interventions, as an effective way to handle these private experiences.A key component of ACT is ‘mindfulness’: a transformative mental state of awareness, openness and focus. In the past, you could only learn mindfulness skills through ancient Eastern practices such as yoga, meditation or martial arts. These days, thanks to ACT, mindfulness skills are quick and easy to learn, without any need to meditate. You can literally learn them in a few minutes, and they will rapidly and effectively help you to reduce the impact and influence of painful feelings, let go of distressing or unhelpful thoughts, break the grip of self-defeating habits, and engage fully in your life.
| ACT and Values|
Living our lives in alignment with what truly matters to us
isn’t about searching, trying to be something other than what we are. All this
searching takes enormous effort, sometimes it pays off, but often it doesn’t
and we are right back where we started. Worse, it pulls us out of our lives.
Searching for peace of mind can be like this. Most people want it, but few of
us can find it and keep it around long enough to convince ourselves, let alone
anyone else, that we’ve got it. Maybe that’s the problem here. Maybe peace of
mind isn’t something we have or find, but something we do, nurture, and
cultivate in ourselves. It is about living with ourselves, our histories, and
going forward to create a life worthy of our time on this planet. That kind of
peace is durable. It can’t be bought, lost, or stolen. It’s hard, yes. But it
can be sweet too.