Acceptance and commitment therapy UK

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Health Assured team

26 April 2021

There are various types of therapy and counselling to support people. After all, every mind is unique and will respond to different things.

One of the most well-known methods is cognitive behavioural therapy, but this doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

Counsellors are professionals who can help find the best therapy and counselling for a person but knowing the different types will allow you to be more informed in sessions. Nobody knows someone as well as you know yourself, after all.

One of the more holistic therapies is acceptance and commitment therapy, which looks at how you react to adversity.

So, what is acceptance and commitment therapy and how does it work? Let’s look at these and more below.

What is ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)?

This is a form of psychotherapy that looks at the acceptance of adversity to improve mental health, rather than eliminating negative feelings.

We often shorten it to ACT. The goal of ACT is to create a rich and meaningful life while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it.

There are plenty of behavioural therapies. Aversion therapy, desensitisation, CBT, mindfulness—each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each is more appropriate for different people and their issues.

Depending on how you work, this form of therapy could be best. Let’s see how it works.

How does acceptance and commitment therapy work?

Sometimes, thoughts and feelings can be unpleasant. A traumatic event, for instance, may have some awful memories attached to it. Fighting against these memories, thoughts and feelings seems like a natural way to deal with this.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is the opposite of fighting your feelings. It’s about embracing, understanding, and—yes—accepting them.

Accepting that which is out of your control can be a powerful tool, to take back control of your own thoughts and feelings. As humans, we have a natural, powerful instinct to demand control over our experiences. But when that isn’t possible, the next best thing is learning to accept that our instinct might not always be right.

As a simple way to summarise the model, ACT views the core of many problems to be because of the concepts represented in the acronym, FEAR:

  • Fusion with your thoughts
  • Evaluation of experience
  • Avoidance of your experience
  • Reason-giving for your behaviour

And the healthy alternative is to ACT:

  • Accept your thoughts and emotions
  • Choose a valued direction
  • Take action

The principles of acceptance and commitment therapy

There are six core processes of ACT, each of which introduces its own acceptance and commitment therapy techniques:

  • Acceptance: similar to the acceptance stage of grief, this is an active choice to allow the unpleasant memories or experiences you struggle with to exist. You move past denying or fighting against them. This is an important first step in the therapy.
  • Cognitive diffusion: this process involves figuring out how someone reacts to their thoughts, in order to make some changes to those responses.
  • Being present: this is similar to mindfulness—it means being aware of the present moment without
  • Self as context: a process offering the concept that a person is not only the sum of their experiences, inner or external, but occupies a self outside of current experience.
  • Values: here, you explore the qualities you work toward, and those you hold in the context of your experiences.
  • Committed action: finally, you’ll commit to a plan of action, making the important changes that ACT is all about.

What does acceptance and commitment therapy involve?

ACT is a fairly new method of therapy. It was developed in 1982 and has been iterated on constantly since, meaning different therapists can have different interpretations. But there are a few acceptance and commitment therapy exercises which work across the board:

  • RAIN: this is a mindfulness exercise which has been around in one form or another since the 1990s. You can take the fundamentals—recognise, attune, investigate, nurture—and apply them to ACT.
  • Mind as a balloon: this is a metaphor, a thought experiment, that works perfectly for ACT. It involves your therapist directing you to visualise a balloon in a field—it may sound odd, but it really works in terms of getting your mind to understand the present.
  • Compartmentalisation: another thought experiment, this involves a therapist asking ‘where’ in your body the emotional experiences you need to accept ‘are.’ You then explore the sensations in that location, giving you a way to realise those emotions.

What can ACT help with?

Acceptance and commitment therapy helps anxiety, depression, stress and trauma. Since ACT helps you to become at peace with emotions, rather than denying them, it’s great for PTSD. Of course, this comes with some caveats—it’s not guaranteed to work for absolutely everyone.

Thinking about therapy? Concerned about a co-worker? Health Assured are here to help. Call us today to discuss how an employee assistance programme reduces stress and depression, eases absenteeism and boosts your return-to-work rates—with an impressive return on investment.

Support your employees with Health assured

Let’s talk about how Health Assured’s EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) can support you and your business. With a huge number of certified counsellors and wellbeing specialists, we can help create a financial wellbeing strategy for your employees.

With our EAP, you get access to our counsellors 24/7, 365, and our mental, physical and financial wellbeing resources.

We also have a brilliant new mental, physical and financial wellbeing app. It provides proactive wellbeing tools and engaging features to enhance our existing services. We’ve built the app’s features from the ground up to improve the user’s mental, physical and financial health by using personal metrics, personalised content and four-week plans to set goals and celebrate achievements.

Arrange a call back from a workplace wellbeing expert today on 0844 891 0352

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