One of the greatest ironies of anxiety is that the more you worry about having anxiety, the more anxious you are likely to become. This is one of the reasons that traditional treatments for anxiety might not work for some people.
The stress of trying to change things and failing may cause people to avoid treatment altogether. ACT is different though, and here are several ways ACT helps to treat anxiety, using the core processes of acceptance & commitment therapy.
- Acceptance – instead of trying to suppress feelings of anxiety, ACT starts by allowing patients to accept that they are feeling anxious
- Cognitive defusion – is a conscious process where patients undergoing ACT learn to distance themselves from anxious thoughts and feelings, so that they can approach them in a more rational, almost detached manner
- Being present – anxiety patients who have ACT learn to be present in the moment, to feel their feelings without judging or trying to change them
- Self as context – the next way ACT helps with anxiety is to teach anxiety sufferers to see themselves as more than just their thoughts, feelings and emotions
- Values – sometimes, it’s not your response to a situation that is the problem, but that the situation does not align with your values, and understanding this can help anxiety sufferers to avoid situations where they feel anxious for that reason
- Committed action – finally, ACT helps anxiety sufferers to develop and implement real change in their lives, by developing coping strategies, changing the way we think about situations that cause anxiety and more
In spite of the efforts of mental health professionals, there is still a huge stigma attached to patients admitting that they have mental health conditions. Sometimes, that is exacerbated by the fear that the “cure” might be worse than the condition.
However, while ACT does encourage a gradual move to more effective and appropriate feelings and reactions, it starts by allowing patients to acknowledge and accept their thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s a non-judgmental form of treatment that is based on the idea that there are no “wrong” thoughts, feelings or emotions, but that we can find better ways to live with the same.
So if you or a loved one has been looking for a therapy option that works with your personality and lived experiences, ACT might be the right choice for you.
Get More Out of ACT
ACT certainly addresses some of the issues of anxiety that other forms of treatment do not. It allows you to work with your anxiety, to really understand it, and to make changes that are based on your own values and things that matter to you.
However, ACT is also a very specialized type of treatment, and if you want to get the most out of it, you should always start by finding a therapist who is experienced and knowledgeable in this type of treatment. You will want to move through the full process, including committing to change, and often, the best way to do that is to have outside input and guidance.