ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY (ACT)Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) represents the latest, third wave of cognitive behavioural therapy. Increasing proof of its effectiveness has been obtained all over the world and in Finland (there have been over one hundred impact studies published).
There are two primary objectives in ACT: the first is to help the client in living a vital, enriching and meaningful life. In order to achieve this objective, time is spent clarifying what the client, deep down, wants out of life: finding what is important and meaningful. This is called values clarification.
The second objective is to teach skills that help the client to deal with unpleasant or painful thoughts and feelings in a new way. These skills are called mindfulness skills. Mindfulness skills help the client to focus on the present moment openly and acceptingly. These skills can help clients learn how to see thoughts as thoughts and feelings as feelings, thus reducing their influence. This makes it easier for clients to face even the most difficult thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories and physical sensations (including pain) without letting them take over. Once clients learn this skill, they will be able to break the cycle of negative, self-destructive behavioural tendencies that may have plagued them for years. Mindfulness skills also help clients get rid of harmful inner rules and beliefs, rise above their own fears and change the way they live their lives.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps develop psychological flexibility. This means that the client will be able to act in accordance with their values even when they have unpleasant feelings and thoughts. Flexibility can be summed up into three skills, which can all be developed:
1. The ability to face thoughts and feelings as they are, and the skill to distance oneself from them so that they can come and go freely. This called giving space to feelings and thoughts (accepting perception)
2. Living in the present This involves the ability to participate consciously in the present as well as to be psychologically present wherever one is at any given moment. This also means the ability to focus attention on whatever one is doing at the moment instead of letting the mind wander, thus compromising concentration. Skills in being present also include consciousness of oneÂ´s own thoughts and feelings.
3. The ability to identify what is important and meaningful to oneself and act accordingly. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy offers completely new and effective treatment methods to both professionals and those engaged in self-help. It also makes use of several conventional cognitive behavioural therapy methods, such as exposure therapy, behavioural activation, problem-solving skills and practising social skills.
ACT methods are used to treat, among other things, anxiety, depression, patient pain, stress and insomnia problems, relationship problems, substance abuse, anger and psychosis. At present, it is probably the fastest growing trend in therapy in the world based precisely on its excellent results. Additional information on the subject can be found in, for example, the books Joustava mieli (2009) and Kohti arvoistasi (2014) by Arto Pietikäinen.
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