ACT Helps Teach How to Take Control of Our Thoughts

From “What Happens in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?“:

“Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps patients to distinguish between thoughts and behaviors. Specifically, patients become aware of their inner experiences, and engage with exercises that help them simply be mindful of and accept those experiences. One example includes “singing and silly voices.” Here, a patient takes a distressing negative thought (e.g., “I’m no good”) and sings it within an easy popular tune (e.g., “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). The patient may also repeat the thought continuously using humorous cartoon-like voices. The goal of this exercise is to help individuals separate the meaning they are placing on the thought from the content itself; that is, to transition from points of psychological inflexibility toward more flexible ones (see “Six Core Principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” below).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps patients to reinterpret past painful events, identify avoidant behaviors, and address emotional difficulties that often co-occur with substance use (e.g., depression, anxiety, and shame). Broader ACT goals that provide direction to these tasks include identification of values and commitment to actions that are in line with those values. Of note, substance use per se is not the target in ACT. Rather, the treatment is intended to decrease the influence of painful emotional experiences that may lead to substance use, thereby influencing it indirectly.”

From “Quick and Dirty ACT Analysis of Psychological Problems“:

  • Most psychological difficulties have to do with the avoidance and manipulation of private events.
  • All psychological avoidance has to do with cognitive fusion and its various effects.
  • Conscious control belongs primarily in the area of overt, purposeful behavior.
  • All verbal persons have the “self” needed as an ally, but some have run from that too.
  • Clients are not broken, and in the areas of acceptance and de-fusion they have the psychological resources they need if they can be harnessed.
  • To take a new direction, we must let go of an old one. If a problem is chronic, the client’s solutions are probably part of them.
  • When you see strange loops, inappropriate verbal rules are involved.
  • The value of any action is its work ability measured against the client’s true values (those he/she would have if it were a free choice). The bottom line issue is living well, not having small sets of “good” feelings.
  • Two things are needed to transform the situation: accept and move.

From “Thoughts as leaves on a stream“:

“Thoughts as leaves on a stream is a popular metaphor used in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to represent noticing thoughts and letting them pass by without attaching to them. I like this metaphor, since it’s not about fighting the thoughts or trying to make them go away, but just riding them out.”

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