Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

In the past I have talked about what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are.  Another of the plentiful modalities is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). My therapist and I are currently using ACT to combat my social anxiety and as something that is new to me, I am still learning what it is and more than that, how to describe it.

A helpful introduction to ACT on Psychology Today breaks it down as follows:

Essentially, ACT looks at your character traits and behaviors to assist you in reducing avoidant coping styles. ACT also addresses your commitment to making changes, and what to do about it when you can’t stick to your goals.

ACT focuses on 3 areas:

Accept your reactions and be present

Choose a valued direction

Take action.

For me, in essence, this means that I will enter into social situations knowing that they will likely cause anxiety, and I will try to be mindful of being in the social situation rather than giving my negative thoughts power.  

Experiential avoidance is a large part of this.  There are many activities that I avoid because they seem like they would, or at one point have, caused me anxiety.  Some of these include maintaining even a minimal level of eye contact while in a conversation, going to the coffee shop in the lobby of the office building I work in, joining a book club, volunteering with animals, the list goes on.

The goal with ACT is not to stop experiencing anxiety in these situations, but rather to not avoid doing things I would otherwise enjoy.  The idea is that I can still live my life doing the things I want, even if these things cause anxiety.

Below is a video my therapist shared with me that I thought was helpful.  Give it a watch and let me know in the comments if you have any experience with ACT.

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