Recovery from addiction or trauma is a complicated affair, with several difficult and enigmatic emotions constantly swirling about. Regaining a sense of control while in an air of change is essential to address these feelings, with various unique approaches needed to do so. Acceptance and commitment therapy is just one of these options available, and while each individual’s journey through recovery will be very personal, learning to embrace acceptance and commit to change is a core skill that is instrumental in developing a healthy approach to a transformed mindset, routine, and worldview.
What Is ACT?
Much of what this therapeutic approach addresses in the name – acceptance and commitment. However, it explores these topics in a profound way to delve into an individual’s physical and emotional responses to stresses while processing negative thoughts and feelings that may be present at any point during one’s recovery journey.
Accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and circumstance is a difficult thing to do, and using this acceptance to commit to core decisions, grounding skills, and change is the hallmark of this particular approach. Coupled with mindfulness practices that allow an individual to become more aware of their physical bodies, as well as emotional state and cognitive-behavioral approaches to understanding one’s reactions to stimuli and thoughts, acceptance and commitment therapy can be a great catalyst to a profound change in one’s mindset and self-image.
Acceptance can feel like an obtuse term to embrace and is much easier said than done. However, approaching acceptance in a few different ways can help each individual better understand the goals of acceptance in their lives.
Acceptance takes many forms. First, it means that an individual needs to accept their emotions, whatever they may be, as real and valid. Feelings like fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger can feel terrible, and it is common to try to push these feelings aside or cover them up with performative alternatives rather than confront these feelings outright. However, avoiding these uncomfortable emotions also leaves them unprocessed and unresolved, making it possible that they continue to build in one’s mind until they find another, more dangerous outlet. Accepting the reality of one’s emotions can be a vulnerable but very freeing experience.
However, it is also important to approach acceptance through a lens of control. Accepting what an individual can control in any given situation, as well as what they cannot control, is an important part of the recovery process. Blame can be plentiful, but also illogical, and it is common that an individual may blame themselves for things they couldn’t have predicted or controlled, especially in cases of trauma. Accepting that certain things are out of one’s control can help an individual focus on the elements they can solve in a current moment, the strategies they can employ, and the change they can make when dealing with stress, anxiety, or other hurdles throughout recovery.
Committing to Commitment
Likewise, commitment also has a few different dimensions to explore. Commitment to action in the moment of stress is the first step towards regaining agency during trying times. Accepting what an individual can control and committing oneself to a grounding strategy can provide a great deal of empowerment, eliminating feelings of doubt that may be present. Committing the next minute to breathing techniques or calling a supportive person to enact an escape plan are all practices that can focus an individual on their grounding and coping strategies quickly and effectively.
Commitment also means committing oneself to recovery as a whole by embracing the idea that strategies may not work immediately and that one’s recovery is a journey that isn’t bound to play out in a straight path. There will be hurdles, trials, and stress, but committing oneself to recovery despite the difficult parts of recovery is a testament to one’s dedication to a healthier, transformed future.
Embracing a New Mentality
Acceptance and commitment therapy is about creating a new mindset around one’s needs and goals in recovery and seeing oneself in a fair light. It is a therapeutic approach that contextualizes one’s strengths and agency in life. Ideas like one’s strengths being more important than one’s vulnerabilities or accepting imperfections are championed in this new mentality. Accepting oneself, in addition to their thoughts, past, and sense of self-worth, are all part of this transformative experience.
Accepting one’s past is the catalyst to committing to one’s future, helping each individual distance themselves from the self-destructive behaviors of their previous identity, enabling them to instead construct a new identity in newfound sobriety.