Why is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Needed?
Addictive cycles and substance abuse disorders don’t just appear out of thin air. Oftentimes, there are many other factors that contribute to a person’s addiction. Abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and co-occurring mental health conditions are some of the most common. But before attempting to treat the substance abuse, an individual needs to come to a certain level of honesty about their reality. This where Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) comes in.
How Effective is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Addiction?
Among the many treatments for substance abuse disorders, ACT is one of the most effective. A recent summary of the studies on ACT and addiction recovery demonstrate that it’s a very successful tool in intervention. According to the studies, it works as a therapy on its own (monotherapy) or in combination with other therapeutic treatments.
Moreover, “the effectiveness of ACT therapy has been shown and documented in different populations, such as adolescents, veterans, inmates, and geriatrics.” This makes ACT a versatile and useful therapy, especially for the complexities of addiction recovery.
What Does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Look Like?
In accepting one’s feelings about a current situation, a person can move toward what ACT calls “values.” These values can be value for your own self, as well as external values that you hold about life in general. Once you identify and accept both your feelings and the values you have, you can then measure your behavior with your values. The following six core concepts are components within ACT and will help you understand how and why ACT works.
The Core Piece of ACT—Acceptance
As the main component of ACT, acceptance also plays a large role in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In order to address the never-ending loop of problems that come with addiction, acceptance is an important tool to a person’s “coming to reality” moment. Being in denial enables a person to repeat self-destructive patterns. In contrast, acceptance is the first step to getting out of the cycle. Acceptance of one’s circumstances can include the following:
- Low self-esteem
- Death of a loved one
- Employment instability
- Bullying or social insecurity
- Chronic loneliness
- Depression and other dual-diagnoses
- Domestic abuse
- Repressed trauma
De-Fusion and Identifying the Facts
Another element of ACT is called de-fusion. But first, what is “fusion?” Fusion occurs when a person projects or “fuses” their thoughts with judgments that have no basis in reality. For those in ACT programs, they must practice detaching—or de-fusing—from their ego, behaviors, and their thoughts that are not based in facts. Oftentimes, fusion happens as a way of escaping pain or trauma. So, in the process of de-fusion, it’s essential to address the fears and feelings that started the fusion in the first place.
Learning to Be Present with Mindfulness
Similar to mindfulness teachings, ACT utilizes the concept of “presence” to help those in addiction recovery. In short, mindful meditations help you learn to be present in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or getting anxious about the future.
For those in recovery, mindfulness exercises can help keep you avoid relapse. Instead of being dictated by cravings and impulses, staying present can bring you balance, harmony, and strength to stay sober. At Pinnacle Recovery, we implement mindfulness meditations every morning to begin the day.
Related to presence, the concept of self-awareness can benefit those in recovery in significant ways. As a part of ACT programs, self-awareness serves to help highlight destructive behaviors in the moment. Even when addiction symptoms and cravings arise, self-awareness helps you see the harm that such actions cause for yourself and others around you. Self-awareness, although difficult at first, can be one of the most empowering aspects of addiction recovery with ACT.
Identifying Your Values
Value identification with ACT begins first with questions: What value do I have and what values do I want to pursue in my life? These questions become the answer after the de-fusion process. Now that you’ve disconnected from false realities, what is the reality you want to lean into? And more importantly, what value do you yourself have? This combination helps to steer you away from destructive behaviors and toward empowered choices of wholeness. If you’re in recovery, value identification in the ACT format can help to support and promote what really matters to you.
Making Commitments to Action
Commitment to action is the most practical element of the ACT program. The journey of recovery requires actions of commitment based on the values you’ve identified and established in yourself. Commitment to actions can be small goals you make at the beginning of the day, or broader goals over a month or a year. The self-awareness and presence of mind that you’ve practiced will help you stay true to these commitments. This is why each element of ACT is so essential—accepting, de-fusion, presence, self-awareness, and value each contribute to staying true to the actions you commit to.
What Are the Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
There are many facets to how ACT therapy can benefit each person. In addition to generally improved sobriety and decrease in substance abuse incidents, one study shows how effective ACT can be for addressing shame for those in addiction recovery. The advantages are numerous of acceptance and commitment therapy and can help you solidify your recovery journey in the short-term with long-term sustainability.
At Pinnacle Recovery, ACT is a core component of our treatment programs. At our facility, each client engages in mindfulness meditations every day, as well as commitments to action for each day. Moreover, at the end of each day, there is a reflection asking how you were able to remain true to your committed action. To learn more about ACT and our residential treatment programs, contact one of our support staff today.