Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a unique therapeutic approach based upon mindfulness and personal values. ACT takes a holistic approach to therapy with the goal to help each individual reach their maximum potential and live a healthy, meaningful life. It can be used across a wide range of different mental health issues including depression, anger, grief, anxiety, trauma, and/or psychosis, as well as health related issues, such as asthma, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic pain.
ACT suggests that an individual may be able to initiate change by accepting and feeling emotions, such as anxiety and panic, as opposed to fighting off or denying these feelings. Changing one’s behavior, regardless of what negative emotions may be triggered, should eventually lead to attitude and emotional change. For example, if an individual feels too anxious to go to a party, they are encouraged to simply perform the behavior (go to the party) despite feeling the anxiety. Eventually, they will learn that they can live with anxiety and the anxiety does not have to prevent them from doing what they want to do. Therefore, the reaction to anxiety is minimized over time because as the individual initiates acceptance, the anxiety becomes less influential over the desired behavior. Practice makes everything easier. The more we practice, the more familiar the behavior, situation, and/or feeling becomes. The more familiar we are with a situation or a feeling, the less threatening it becomes.
Mindfulness and acceptance theories utilize the metaphor of riding the wave. Typically, the peak of anxiety during a panic attack will not be experienced for longer than a few minutes. Instead of fighting off the panic attack, experiencing the panic attack and “riding the wave” will make it easier and less distressing over time. Avoidance of negative feelings gives these unwanted emotions more power. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues and would like more information or support from a mental health professional, please contact Interact at 215-487-1330 or email us at Greenridge@intercommunityaction.org for more information about our counseling services.
Author: Samantha Algauer, MA, LAC, NCC