You must be wondering what on earth ACT is. ACT is the acronym for a type of therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy, a therapy which I have had success with in my mental health treatment journey.When I first heard the name Acceptance Commitment Therapy I was a little miffed, it sounded like my psychologist wanted me to just accept the way I was feeling, that I couldn’t change it so why try. I wasn’t a big fan of the acceptance part of ACT, at least the way that I saw it.
For a little background, Acceptance Commitment Therapy or ACT for short is a therapy that was created by Steve Hayes. It was then broken down into a more user friendly model by Russ Harris. He has written a book about ACT, which is called The Happiness Trap. It is Harris’ belief that we as humans are always chasing that elusive happiness, that because of the way life is, it’s not a state that can be maintained. He instead believes that through understanding your values and mindfulness you can live a life of fulfillment, not just a fleeting feeling of happiness.
It turned out that my definition of acceptance was a little skewed. I was seeing it in a negative light, like I see most things, instead of seeing it as a way that I could move forward. It was explained to me that our thoughts are going to happen, but that we don’t need to believe them at face value. All of the other therapies that I have done believed that a thought process needed to be removed in order for us to be able to move forward. ACT shows us how to live with them.
ACT really was the therapy that was created for me. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. The thing that I struggled the most with CBT and DBT is removing the thought process. I knew what I needed to do, I just couldn’t follow through with the doing part of the whole process. ACT removed that for me, it allowed me to have those thoughts while not allowing me to be affected by them.
I have only just touched on ACT in therapy so far, new things seem to keep rearing their ugly heads but from what I know so far, I love it. I have found a lot of success with using the Stories method outlined in Harris’ book on ACT. It’s completely simple and doesn’t require a lot of work or even thought. The idea is to take out the seriousness of the thought by turning it into the title of a story. I also add in a little internal eye roll and my inner teenager loves it.
For example, if one of your most frequent negative thoughts is that you are stupid, then when this thought pops into your head you simply say to yourself (either out loud or in your head) ‘oh it’s the I’m stupid story again. This is always fun’ cue internal eye roll. It really is that simple!
It’s been really great to find a therapy like ACT which allows me to move through the thoughts rather than trying to get rid of them. It’s the first time I have felt really positive about the outcomes of a therapy.
Have your tried ACT? Do you think the Stories technique could work for you?