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Act Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

Increasing Awareness Of Cognitive Distortions

What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy?

Both ACT and CBT focus on cognitive distortionsâthe latter is geared predominantly toward restructuring them, however, while ACT is about creating space for these through acceptance. Without an awareness of cognitive distortions in the first instance, weâre hard-pressed to do either.

This Increasing Awareness of Cognitive Distortions intervention works well in conjunction with mindfulness interventions as part of ACT therapy . It begins by introducing the cognitive distortion concept and outlines 11 examples that your client may be able to relate to. Examples include All-or-Nothing Thinking, Personalization,Should Statements, and Jumping to Conclusions.

While this comes as a helpful PDF, therapists will likely find this a very useful step to work through with your client. Being able to answer any questions will be helpful as your client moves to the next stage filling out a worksheet with cognitive distortions that they can identify.

Three columns, as shown below, provide some structure for a guided awareness intervention that will ideally take place for at least 5 minutes daily over a week. The full exercise can be found in our Positive Psychology Toolkit.

Steven Hayes Work On The Topic

Many psychologists call Steven C. Hayes, the founder of ACT. He is a clinical psychologist, a doctorate scholar, and a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada.

Hayes is well-known for his works on relational frame theory, which later laid the groundwork for the ACT and allied therapies.

A crucial contribution of Dr. Steve Hayes was that he could successfully shift the focus of psychotherapy from treating what is âsub-normalâ to promoting what is ânormalâ.

Hayes believed that if therapists could spend more time to formulate strategies for reminding clients of their virtues and skills, the results would be more positive and surely long-lasting.

He suggested that once we start focusing on what we have, we gain the motivation for self-improvement. The more we think of possible ways to better ourselves, the farther we would move from negativities and stress.

Hayesâ main idea was to promote ACT as a solution-focused approach that would uplift individuals and free them from thought barriers, which is why he emphasized on incorporating mindfulness into ACT along with other cognitive practices.

Principle : Contact With The Present Moment

To allow ourselves to experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts which have arisen is to follow the third ACT principle, that of making contact with the present moment, which Harris prefers to call connection . It means living in the present, focusing on whatever we are doing, and bringing full awareness to the here-and-now experience: with openness, interest, and receptiveness. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, we are deeply connected with what is happening right here, right now. With connection, we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing .

In practicing connection, we might ask: why bother pulling ourselves out of the past or the future to come back to the present moment? Why is doing so considered so beneficial for us? Harris points to three primary reasons:

This is the only life weve got , so why not make the most of it? To be only half-present is to miss half of it. Lack of present-moment contact is akin to listening to a favourite piece of music with ear plugs in the ears, or eating a favourite food when the mouth is still numb from a visit to the dentist we miss the richness there could be.

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Six Core Principles Of Act

  • Contact with the present moment
  • The Observing Self
  • Committed action

Each principle has its own specific methodology, exercises, homework and metaphors. Take defusion, for example. In a state of cognitive defusion we are caught up in language. Our thoughts seem to be the literal truth, or rules that must be obeyed, or important events that require our full attention, or threatening events that we must get rid or. In other words, when we fuse with our thoughts, they have enormous in influence over our behavior.

1. Cognitive Defusion2. Acceptance3. Contact with the present moment: 4. The Observing Self:5. Values:6. Committed Action:

Identifying Values And Goals

What Is Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

In this stage, you identify your strongest values, like serving your community, keeping your promises, or showing kindness to everyone. These values can help clue you in on the goals and dreams youd find most meaningful to pursue.

Living a life of purpose, as a general rule, often becomes easier when you have a clear destination in mind and a good understanding of what matters most to you.

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Why Act Works For Those With Adhd

One of the best ACT therapy manuals is Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, written by Stephen Hayes, Ph.D. The title immediately caught my eye. One of the biggest impairments reported by people with ADHD nervous systems is that they spend too much time in their heads. They are confused and hurt by the neurotypical world, which doesnt understand or appreciate them.

Hayess manual works for people with ADHD because it recognizes that importance is not a motivator for them. Besides the burden of ADHD, many of them suffer from anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and the like. ACT therapy acknowledges that the intrinsic importance of a task and the rewards a person gets from accomplishing the task arent enough to motivate many of those with ADHD to take action.

ACT therapy solves the problem by having the patient focus on values, not the importance of a task, to spur motivation. Values are the not the same thing as importance. The things we value are things in which we have invested our emotions. We care about these things. They have meaning to us and, perhaps, only to us.

The goal is to identify a persons core values by answering the following questions:

  • What do you care about?
  • What have you invested the most time, energy, and emotion in?
  • What gives meaning to your life? What gives direction and purpose?
  • What Can Act Therapy Help With

    Acceptance and Commitment therapy is used to treat a variety of mental health and substance use disorders, as well other non-clinical issues that sometimes bring people into counseling . ACT is a relatively new type of therapy that utilizes some of the same techniques used in experiential therapy. Research is ongoing to identify which conditions it can effectively treat.

    Currently, there is evidence to support that ACT is effective in treating the following disorders:2

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    Six Principles Of Acceptance And Commitment Therapy

    Six basic principles form the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. They work in conjunction with one another toward the main goals of effectively handling painful thoughts and experiences and creating a rich, vital life. The principles are:

  • Cognitive defusion
  • Contact and connection with the present moment
  • The Observing Self
  • Committed action
  • We take a brief look now at what they entail.

    Connection To The Present

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Acceptance

    Cognitive defusion and acceptance are difficult if you are not grounded in the present moment. If you are reliving past experiences or worrying about the future, you are likely to react to present stressors in self-protective ways that may not be in line with your values. Only by connecting to the present moment will you have the power to choose how to act.

    Connecting to the present can often overpower any unhelpful or unwanted thoughts or feelings that otherwise may be difficult to defuse or accept. The present is where we experience joy, delight, surprise, beauty, and inspiration. Weve all had experiences, however fleeting, that were so engrossing that they brought us fully in the living, breathing present: breathtaking views, first kisses, game-winning shots, standing ovations, acceptance letters, job offers, promotions, and more.

    But being present shouldnt be reserved for surprises, milestones, or special occasions. Like any skill, connection to the present moment is something you can practice. Mindfulness offers tools to help people learn and practice living in the present moment.

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    Triggers Behaviors And Payoffs

    This worksheet is a fillable matrix on page 6 with one column for writing down triggers , behaviors , and payoffs .

    This worksheet can help you or your clients identify self-defeating behaviors with the motivation behind them, which can be a first step to recognizing and modifying problematic behavior.

    Structure Of An Act Therapy Session

    When you go to an ACT therapy session, you can expect to go through the following stages.

    Building rapport. During your first few sessions, you’ll sit with a therapist and talk about some of the challenges or struggles you’re facing. You’ll discuss your mental health and talk about things you’ve tried in the past that may or may not have worked.

    Deeper awareness. Your therapist will help you identify areas you may have negative thoughts about or hesitate to discuss with others. They can help you work through painful memories while making peace with the things you cannot change.

    Core values. During ACT sessions, you will also be encouraged to explore your core values and identify what’s important to you. How do you want to identify yourself? What do you want your life to look like?

    Actions. After you’ve identified your recurring thought patterns and what you’d like to prioritize, your therapist will help you start to make a change. The emphasis of this phase is to accept what you can’t change while focusing on changing things within your control.

    Commitment. Once you’ve experienced ACT, your therapist will help you find ways to incorporate it into your everyday life. The purpose is to make a well-thought-out plan so you can continue what you learned in the long run.

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    The Sailing Boat Metaphor

    This metaphor uses the setting of a small sailing boat, with you as the sailor.

    Occasionally, waves send water over the side and into the boat, causing you the inconvenience of wet feet. The boat includes a bailer to bail out this water, and you know how to use it.

    So one day, when a particularly big wave breaks over the side and leaves water in your boat, you start bailing. You may start bailing calmly or mindfully, but eventually, you might find yourself bailing desperately or wildly to get rid of all this water.

    While youâve been bailing, have you noticed what is happening to your boat? Where is it headed? Where has it drifted to? Would it be fair to say youâve been bailing more than sailing?

    Now imagine that you take a look at the bailer and see that it is really a sieve, full of holes? What would you do?

    The implicit purpose of bailing water here is probably to get your boat back on track once you rid the boat of the water. But if your tool is not suited to the task, you will find yourself struggling to get rid of any water, let alone guide your boat.

    The question is would you rather be on a boat that has only a little water in the bottom, but is drifting without direction, or on a boat that may have quite a bit of water in the bottom but is heading in the direction you wish to go?

    This metaphor can help you or your clients realize two things:

    This metaphor can be accessed in its entirety, as part of the Positive Psychology Toolkit©.

    Useful Act Exercises Techniques And Metaphors

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) by Gunther Schmid

    The section above includes several resources with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy practices, and now weâll describe the most popular exercises and metaphors in detail=.

    Several of these can be found on the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science website, on their ACT exercises page or their ACT metaphors page. For each exercise or metaphor, a link will be provided to the exercise for you to learn more.

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    Two Sides Of The Same Coin By Jenna Lejeune

    This exercise can be guided by a therapist or completed on your own. Following these steps can help you or your client understand that suffering is an inevitable part of life if we eradicated suffering, we would also eliminate joy.

    Follow these steps to give this exercise a try:

    • Find an activity or relationship that you find valuable, but that you have retreated from recently
    • Take out an index card or piece of paper. On one side, write down what you value about that activity or relationship or what you hope to achieve or become through it
    • On the other side, write down the difficult thoughts and feelings that sometimes happen for you, when you take action towards gaining the value or achievements written on the other side
    • Put the card in your pocket, wallet, or purse. Over the next week, take it out, look at both sides, and ask yourself if you are willing to have that card, with both the good and bad. You can either avoid both the value and the pain, or you can embrace them both.

    For more information on this exercise and the story behind it, check it out here, and look here for a similar exercise from ACBS.

    How Does It Work

    Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was developed as a behavioral intervention to help people learn strategies to live life more in the present, more focused on important values and goals, and less focused on painful thoughts, feelings and experiences. ACT teaches people how to engage with and overcome painful thoughts and feelings through acceptance and mindfulness techniques, to develop self-compassion and flexibility, and to build life-enhancing patterns of behavior. ACT is not about overcoming pain or fighting emotions it’s about embracing life and feeling everything it has to offer. It offers a way out of suffering by choosing to live a life based on what matters most. There is a thriving research community that examines the basic science underlying ACT and the effectiveness of applying ACT techniques to numerous life problems such as trichotillomania, skin picking, anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, chronic pain, psychosis, eating problems, and weight management, just to name a few.

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    Not This Not That Exercise

    Hereâs a short but sweet activity designed to encourage a Self-in-Context perspective. Itâs actually a succinct thought experiment that emphasizes the transient yet continual nature of our feelings and thoughts.

  • Tell yourself or your client to observe somethingâanything tangible and nearby might be a good start, or you could use the flow of breath as part of an exercise.
  • Bring your awareness to the fact that you are distinct from this phenomenon: âThere is that breath, and you are observing it.â
  • To reinforce this sense of Self as an Observer: âIf youâre able to observe your breath, you canât be your breathâ
  • And emphasize the dynamic nature of the observed, while the self remains unchanged: âYour breath is continually changing, in and out, and in its very nature. But the you that observes your breath does not alter
  • The original exercise was presented by Russ Harris at the 2009 ACT World Conference and can be found here.

    The Valued Directions Worksheet By John Forsyth And Georg Eifert

    What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?

    This exercise is a great first step for anyone looking to start practicing ACT techniques. Values, as mentioned earlier, are a foundational piece in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

    The Valued Directions worksheet presents 10 value domains for the reader to consider:

    • Family of origin
    • Spirituality Community life/environment/nature
    • Recreation/leisure

    The exercise then asks the reader to rate the importance of each value domain on a scale of 0 to 2 . There is nothing wrong with valuing some areas more than others.

    Then, readers rate their satisfaction with their lives in each area on a scale of 0 to 2 .

    Once the ratings have been completed, the exercise asks readers to review any value rated as a 1 or 2 on the importance scale and write their intentions in that area for the foreseeable future. In other words, write down what you want to achieve, maintain, or become in each important value area.

    These are not goals that can be completed and checked off, but rather they are actionable goals that match how you want to live your life each day.

    This exercise can help clarify what is important and needs to be prioritized in your life. Itâs best if you have a therapist or qualified professional to discuss the results and actionable goals with. It is still a powerful exercise whether you are currently attending therapy or not.

    To give this exercise a try, follow this link.

    For more ACT exercises, check out the exercises, techniques, and worksheets on the following sites:

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    How Is Act Different From Cbt Or Dbt

    All belonging to the family of behavior therapies, ACT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy all share a common foundation of focusing on behavior change. Out of the three treatments, CBT is most different. In CBT, difficult emotions are thought to be caused or closely linked to specific unhelpful thought patterns.

    CBT therapists encourage clients to reframe or rethink their thoughts in more helpful ways that lead to improvements in their emotional state and behavior. ACT therapists believe that putting effort into rethinking or changing thoughts is unhelpful and sometimes can lead to becoming more stuck.

    Instead, ACT and DBT recognize thoughts as playing a role in emotional distress but instead of changing them, both approaches encourage the use of mindfulness to get distance from them. In both approaches, clients are also encouraged to be willing to accept and experience difficult emotions. The skills in both ACT and DBT are packaged differently but ultimately are variations of mindfulness skills. The behavioral focus paired with the focus on mindfulness is what connects both ACT and DBT, placing them in the same category of third wave behavior theories.



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