Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a “third wave” cognitive behavioral treatment, standing on the shoulders of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Where CBT works on countering negative, anxious thinking, ACT (pronounced “act”) encourages acceptance of anxious thoughts and feelings, focusing instead on living well despite those thoughts and feelings–that is committing to moving forward toward your goals regardless of anxious thoughts and feelings.
An ACT therapist might ask you to imagine yourself in a tug of war with your anxiety. You pull on the rope, dig your feet in, and strain with all your might. Nothing changes. Your anxiety is still there. It may even be increased, feeding off the thrill of the battle. ACT asks, what if you were to simply put the rope down? Opt out of the tug of war, stop struggling against your anxiety, and get on with your life.
From the ACT point of view, all the time and effort you put into combating your symptoms is time not living your life. All the books and treatments and remedies, all the worry about worrying, all the avoidance of anxiety-provoking experience–it’s all interfering with living.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps you learn to move your attention away from your battle with your symptoms and toward life as you want to live it. A key component of ACT is mindfulness practice, developing a habit of awareness of the present moment, one moment at a time–life as its lived and experienced instead of worried-about and feared. The title of an ACT workbook sums up the approach: Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life.
Want more details? This article is a good place to start: The ABCs of ACT. ACBS’s summary of ACT is here. The Anxiety L.A. Bookstore has collection of ACT books and workbooks, including The Acceptance & Commitment Workbook for Anxiety, by John Forsyth and Georg Eifert
To discuss whether this treatment approach is right for you and to arrange an appointment, call (323) 739-4322.