What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is called ACT. ACT is an ACTive therapy which involves taking ACTion in line with your values to lead a more meaningful life. This idea of action refers to the commitment aspect of ACT. Often, when distressed, we plough all of our energies into trying to avoid the pain we are feeling. Whilst this is normal, and very human, it can mean that we spend so much time trying to avoid feeling bad that we lose sight of the aspects of life that bring us pleasure, joy and satisfaction. These attempts to avoid negative feelings can actually serve to increase our distress and leave us feeling more stuck.
One way to understand this better is to think about the advice for what to do if you ever get stuck in quicksand. Our natural reaction would be to struggle to try and free ourselves from the threat. In fact fighting and struggling actually makes you sinkmore quickly. In the case of quick sand, staying calm and laying back rather than over reacting helps you to get to safety. It may be worth considering whether your own struggle to avoid experiencing negative feelings or upset might be pulling you further into the quick sand.
ACT makes use of things like mindfulness practice to help approach our thoughts and emotions differently. In doing so we can recognise that life often carries upsets which lead to difficult emotions and that rather than putting our energies into trying to avoid all of these feelings, it may be better for us to invest more in the aspects of life that matter most. This represents the acceptance component of ACT.
Accepting that there are aspects of life that are beyond our control (like having a mixture of emotions) can be challenging, but ultimately it helps us deal with feelings differently and frees us up to make changes that contribute to finding greater meaning in everyday life. Once these approaches to thoughts and feelings have been developed and practised they can be applied across our lives, from mood and relationships, to challenges with food.
What happens in an ACT session?
ACT is collaborative, time limited therapy during which you will be actively involved with your treatment. The best way to develop new approaches to thoughts and feelings is to experiment and practice so bringing a willingness to do this is helpful in ACT. During sessions you will try exercises with your therapist and often practice them between meetings. Making a commitment to take action between sessions is an important aspect of ACT therapy.
What therapy to choose?
Psychological therapy is a personal journey and not every approach will work for every person. What may be helpful to you could depend on a number of factors and Dr Scholtz will consider this when discussing options with you. Thinking with a Psychiatrist, Psychologist or Therapist is often the best way to work out which approach could be helpful to your personal challenge with food, in your unique situation at the current time in your life.