It is well known that overcoming negative thoughts and feelings can lead to greater well-being. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) supports this idea and gets its name from its core messages: accepting what is out of your control and committing to behaviors that improve your life and personal well-being. ACT is a type of mindfulness-based therapy in which the patient spends time with a trained therapist to develop and practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness which allows the individual to fully engage in the present and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings without judgement. The primary goal of ACT is to maximize the patient’s potential for a full life after recovery.
ACT is strength-based, meaning that it provides resources for the patient to become more psychologically resilient, learn how to overcome their symptoms, and create a healthier lifestyle. By employing mindfulness techniques, the patient is encouraged to stay aware of the present moment and maintain or change their behavior based on its value in that moment. ACT focuses on being present and accepting reactions, choosing a direction, and taking action.
In drug addiction recovery, ACT helps the patient face their challenges and offers inspiration to take action against the problem instead of struggling or suffering. ACT acknowledges that suffering is normal but also reminds the patient that it is possible to live without pain, sadness, or anxiety by getting rid of psychological pain.
Throughout the ACT process, therapists continuously remind the patient how they can stay in control of their negative thoughts and feelings. For example, people often turn to drugs and alcohol when they feel like life is out of their control or when they are trying to avoid negative thoughts and situations. As a result, this struggle can lead to depression, anxiety, and addiction. ACT can help break this cycle by encouraging the patient to be aware of their personal problems, take action to face them, and put an end to their inner struggles.
Substance addiction can lead to a dysfunctional belief system in which the addict thinks their addiction has power over them. In ACT, patients are motivated to confront and accept their substance abuse, self-limiting beliefs, and self-sabotaging behaviors. By doing so, these negative patterns and behaviors lose their strength in the patient’s life. ACT also helps recovering addicts accept their demons, move forward, and establish a healthier lifestyle.
Individuals can expect to learn about six basic themes in ACT: values, action, cognitive fusion, acceptance, observation, and the present. By exploring and connecting with a few core values, the patient can use these themes as a guide to live their lives by. Creating positive goals and concrete steps to reach them will break down the necessary actions the patient needs to take to be successful. Identifying negative thoughts and learning how to give less power to them will help the patient put a stop to internal struggle.
For example, common thoughts for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol might include, "I won’t have fun at this party unless I’m drunk" or "I can’t handle these emotions unless I use something to calm myself down." In ACT, the patient learns techniques to give less attention to these thoughts and prevent them from having power over their behavior. Rather than avoiding painful emotions and things that cannot be changed, the patient will learn to live with the negatives of life without drugs or alcohol. This transition occurs when the patient starts listening to and observing their thoughts without acting on them.
Lastly, most addicts rely on substances to avoid staying stuck in a painful memory from the past or anxiously worrying about the future. ACT encourages patients to practice just staying in the present. The long-lasting strategies learned in ACT are extremely effective in helping people overcome their substance abuse and improve every aspect of their lives.
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Adsett, Jim. "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Substance Abuse." M1 Psychology. M1 Psychology Loganholme, 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
Serani, Deborah. "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy." Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LCC, 22 Feb. 2011. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.