Within the recovery process, there are many different tools and many different forms of therapy. Ideally, we would find a treatment facility which offers many types of therapy, so we can find what works best for us. Just as none of us are identical, neither are our stories or our needs, so we might not all benefit from identical types of therapy or treatment.
The best forms of treatment for substance use are evidence-based practices. These are practices which have been researched and for which there is scientific evidence of their efficacy in treating addiction. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based practice that has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of substance use.
What is ACT?
ACT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy which utilizes mindfulness, or being present and non-judgmental. Rather than avoiding pain or negative emotions, we are taught to simply accept them and not place judgment on them or try to control them. This technique is utilized because we will not always be able to avoid unpleasant situations or emotions, but we can learn to control our responses to them. As we change our perceptions of the struggles in our lives, we actually reduce their existence by realizing that it is our reactions which create most of the struggles.
This approach, of changing our perceptions rather than trying to change ourselves or the world around us, results in greater cognitive flexibility and a significant decrease in emotional stress. There are six core ideas within ACT which help us to change our perceptions and functioning:
• Defusion – we can learn to watch our thinking. Often, we give thoughts, memories, or emotions the same power as concrete events or things. As we learn to separate the tangible from the intangible, our brains can learn to give the appropriate weight and response to intangible things. This helps us to give balance to our thinking.
• Acceptance – Rather than resist or fight or judge events or emotions, we can simply accept them. We can notice them, almost as if watching them from a distance, without perceiving them to be bad or wrong or even negative. This helps us to control our emotional response to the world around us.
• Being Present – we can train ourselves to be in contact with the present moment, to be here, now. When we are thinking about things in the past or anticipating things in the future, we are placing judgment upon those events, many of which are things we cannot control. When we are distracted by other things, we are not effective in the moment for ourselves or others. Being present helps us to see things now, as they are, and reduces judgment and emotional response.
• Values – It is important for us to know what is important to ourselves. By knowing and maintaining our own values, we can choose words and actions that reflect who we are. We can also choose the people we want to surround ourselves with, those who will support us in our values. When we use our own values, we can be true to ourselves in our responses and actions.
• Committed Action – when we take committed action, we do what matters. As we are increasingly aware of our own values, we can set goals which reflect those values. As we make those commitments to ourselves, we can take effective action to follow through with our plans. Taking committed action helps us to develop integrity and lead an authentic life.
• Self as Context – we can simply notice. We are not our emotions, feelings, thoughts, memories or even our bodies. Those things individually are part of us, but they are not our essence or who we really are. As we simply notice or observe, we can remove the judgments and reactions to the world around us.
How Does ACT Help Heal?
Our healing is based on change. We are changing our behaviors by giving up our substances. We are changing our thoughts and actions to support this change. Changing the way that we think is very difficult, but ACT can help us learn to drastically change how our minds work and how we perceive the world.
We also need help healing from the pain and experiences which led to our substance use. ACT is a powerful tool to help us change how we look at our experiences, which also helps us to heal from our pain and trauma. We can even learn to change our feelings about our substance use, which can remove the guilt and shame and other emotions we might have about our actions. Learning to use mindfulness and the other tools we gain from ACT, we can gain the skills to heal ourselves and live authentically and effectively.
We need help to heal from substance use. ACT is an evidence-based practice which can help us not only heal our minds, but also change the way that we think and perceive our world. As we learn to be healthy and free of substances, we can also free ourselves from emotional responses that can keep us stuck in unhealthy thought patterns and reactions. ACT can also empower us to change not only our perceptions, but also identify our values as we learn to act and live authentically. ACT can not only help us heal, but also transform our lives.
Discover how ACT can help you heal. Call AToN Center at (888) 813-5928. We have many treatment options available, including ACT Therapy.