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Addictions

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) was developed by Steven Hayes, Ph.D. (Hayes, Strosahl & Wilson, 2011). It is another hybrid form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It is quite similar to DBT. Both therapies teach clients about mindfulness and Eastern meditative practices. ACT focuses on "cognitive defusion." According to ACT, during times of distress we often become "fused" with our thoughts and feelings. As such, we elevate their importance. In a sense, we start to believe we are our thoughts and feelings. Similarly, we can mistakenly believe our thoughts and feelings represent facts about our world and ourselves. Traditional CBT encourages people to change their thoughts and feelings. In contrast, ACT encourages people to simply notice and accept their thoughts and feelings for what they are: merely thoughts and feelings of no particular importance other than the importance we assign them. People learn to say to themselves, "Oh, I'm having a thought about cocaine. I'm having a feeling it would be fun to use again." From this perspective, there is no impetus to use cocaine, nor is cocaine fun. It is merely a thought about those things. Therapy participants learn to fully experience the present moment without attachment to specific thoughts and feelings. Eventually people discover their core values and commit to a course of action based on those values. ACT is an evidence-based treatment for addictions as well as several other disorders. You can learn more about ACT here.

 

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