What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a new addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that is based on the latest research into the nature of thoughts. ACT offers a fresh perspective on how best to deal with unwanted thoughts and feelings, and it is particularly well-suited for helping people with OCD and anxiety. While it is still a fairly new approach, ACT is already showing great promise as an OCD therapy, with researchers finding that ERP therapy done with ACT may be more effective than ERP alone. Some of the basic concepts of ACT are:
Uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are a part of life.
Our brains can come up with some pretty unsettling ideas, and we will not always like the thoughts that pop into our heads. We also have to, on occasion, feel emotions that make us uncomfortable. ACT therapy is based on the notion that many of our mental experiences are out of our control, and trying to use therapy to change or control our thoughts and feelings is not always a realistic goal.
Our thoughts don’t automatically have meaning
We can get ourselves into trouble when we start believing our thoughts to be true, assuming they have some sort of meaning, and thinking that they say something about us. Many of our thoughts are random, exaggerated, and/or meaningless. And those thoughts that are based on truth still only offer us a limited perspective.
Reacting to our thoughts gives them power
Any reactions we have to our thoughts can further entrench them in our minds. Arguing with our thoughts, figuring out if they’re true or not, trying not to have certain thoughts: these are all examples of behaviors that can inadvertantly give our thoughts power.
Mindful acceptance is key.
Since we can’t stop our brains from having the thoughts and feelings we don’t like, and reacting to them only makes them stronger, then what’s the answer? The key, from an ACT perspective, is to allow our unwanted thoughts to exist; let our thoughts hang out in our heads as long as they want to, and make room for the feelings we don’t like. This doesn’t mean that we actually need to give them our attention, which brings us to the next point.
Focus your attention on what’s important.
One of the best ways to stop reacting to your thoughts and feelings is to direct your attention on the moment at hand, the real world, the world of your senses. And ACT incorporates a number of “mindfulness” strategies to help you do this. ACT also recommends spending time focusing on your values (i.e. what’s important to you, where you want to go in life, etc.). This is because, when you are struggling with OCD and anxiety, you are often so focused on what you don’t like in life, that you end up never thinking about what you do like.
Find a therapist who can provide OCD therapy using ACT
If you are struggling with OCD or an OC Spectrum Disorder and are looking for an ACT therapist, contact us at The Center for OCD and Anxiety to make an intake appointment with one of our OCD therapists.
This is just a brief overview of some of the most relevant ACT concepts for OCD and anxiety. If you are interested in learning more about ACT, you can read more with the following links: