Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies book cover

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies

By: Freddy Jackson Brown and Duncan Gillard Published: 03-14-2016

Harness ACT to live a healthier life

Do you want to change your relationship with painful thoughts and feelings that are holding you back from making changes to improve your life? In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies, you'll discover how to identify negative and unhealthy modes of thinking and apply Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principles throughout your day-to-day life, creating a healthier, richer and more meaningful existence with yourself and others.

Closely connected to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), ACT is an evidence-based, NICE-approved therapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in with commitment and behaviour-changing strategies to help people increase their psychological flexibility in both their personal and professional lives. With the help of this straightforward and authoritative guide, you'll find out how to target unpleasant feelings and not act upon them—without sending yourself spiraling down the rabbit hole. The objective is not happiness; rather, it is to be present with what life brings you and to move toward valued behaviour.

  • Shows you how to banish unhelpful thoughts
  • Guides you to making room for painful feelings
  • Teaches you how to engage fully with your here-and-now experience
  • Helps you cope with anxiety, depression, stress, OCD and psychosis

Whether you're looking to practice self care at home or are thinking about seeing an ACT therapist, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies makes it easier to live a healthier and more productive life in spite of—and alongside—unpleasantness.

Articles From Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies

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8 results
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-02-2022

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps you improve your relationships in all areas — work, family, and friendships — and how to manage anxiety in these areas as well. Gain skills in mindfulness and learn to clearly define and live out your personal values with these valuable tips.

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Setting and Achieving Value-Based SMART Goals

Article / Updated 06-28-2021

Committed action is a core acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) process. It involves turning your values into actions in your everyday life. Your values represent what's most important to you and the kind of person you want to be. Committed action is about behaving in ways that reflect your values, even when doing so is difficult or inconvenient. For example, maybe an important value for you is being a loving and devoted parent. A committed action that reflects this value might be reading a story to your child at bedtime when you'd rather be doing something else. To help you engage in committed actions, ACT recommends setting SMART goals to assist you in living a life based on your values. A SMART goal is: Specific: Be clear about exactly what it is that you need to do (for example, take my son to Legoland rather than take my son somewhere nice). Measureable: Set clearly defined criteria against which to measure your success (for example, we will have been to Legoland and enjoyed at least two rides together rather than we will have done something nice together). Achievable: Ensure that your goal relates to something you can directly and clearly influence (for example, take my son to Legoland rather than make my son happy all of the time). Realistic: Make sure that when you set a goal you have the time, resources and ability to achieve it. Also make sure that it's not something so grandiose that it's virtually impossible to achieve (for example, buy my son a photo of himself on a ride at Legoland rather than take my son to meet the Queen at nearby Windsor Castle after our trip to Legoland). Time-framed: Establish specific dates or time periods so that you can hold yourself to account and ensure that you don't keep putting off value-based action (for example, take my son to Legoland by the end of the month rather than take my son to Legoland soon). While SMART goals are by definition time-framed, they can be of any duration, from one hour to one month or even longer. Use the example in this table to help you set your own value-based SMART goals. Setting Value-Based SMART Goals Personal Value Goal Potential Barriers How I Will Overcome These Barriers When I Will Achieve This Goal By Friendship Send my friend Dave a letter of condolence following the death of his father Work and other responsibilities consuming my time and stopping me from finding time to write the letter Tomorrow night, when the kids are asleep and I've done everything I need to, I won't switch on the TV until I've written the letter The end of this week

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Improving Your Relationships

Article / Updated 06-06-2016

Relationships – be they with family, friends or lovers – are processes. And no matter how happy and contented you are with the important relationships in your life, there's always room for improvement. Relationships, like all processes, also ebb and flow and present you with challenges. Here are a few great techniques to help you engage in relationships in a way that represents the kind of person you most want to be: Practise mindful listening when engaging in conversation. Take a few seconds to become aware of your current experience, breathe slowly and rhythmically, and pay careful attention to both what's being said and other aspects of the interaction, such as the pace, tone and volume of the other person's speech, as well as her body language. Set yourself a daily goal to do something nice for someone who's important to you, no matter how small the gesture. Ask difficult questions if the answers are important to you, even if you fear they may lead to painful conversations or experiences. Take time to reflect on how best to ask those questions in a way that's caring and compassionate so that the other person feels able to answer honestly. Write a list of the things that matter most to you in your relationships with other people. Try to come up with ten qualities, such as honesty, kindness and trust, for example. Then consider each quality in turn, and think about how you can actively make it a feature of your current and future relationships.

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Enhancing Your Work Life

Article / Updated 06-06-2016

Many therapeutic approaches are seen as relevant only to those with a clinically diagnosed mental health problem. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) differs in this respect. Anyone and everyone can benefit from ACT; it can be applied to everyday difficulties as well as serious problems, such as depression. Workplace stress, for example, is a very common problem. Here are some ACT tips for dealing with workplace stress: List your values – in terms of the kind of person you want to be and the personal qualities that are important to you – and think about how they relate to your working life. From time to time, take one value from this list and set yourself a little personal goal that relates to it. For example, if you value being supportive to colleagues, ask someone who appears to be struggling to join you for coffee to discuss how things are going. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day if you're faced with an overwhelming task. Divide that task into small steps and then take the first one! If your work life is making you feel stressed, bear in mind that being disconnected from your values may also account for that feeling. Making some changes that reflect your values – such as resolving to have that difficult conversation with your manager which you've been avoiding for the past six months – may resolve the problem or at least make working too hard more manageable. Take some time during your working day to just 'be'. Consider working through a brief mindfulness exercise – it can have a profound effect on how able you feel to embrace the challenges you encounter on a daily basis.

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Developing a Different Relationship with Anger

Article / Updated 06-06-2016

Anger isn't actually a problem. It's a natural emotion, just like happiness and sadness. How you respond to anger, however, can be problematic. How you feel and what you think aren't choices – but you can choose how to act. Allowing yourself to feel anger but responding in a way that's non-destructive and consistent with your values is clearly important. Here are some tips to help you manage anger: Keep in mind that anger is a natural and inevitable emotion, the purpose of which is often (maybe always!) to warn you of a source of threat. This may be an emotional rather than physical threat, such as being blamed for something you haven't done or being spoken to in an aggressive manner without justification. When you experience anger (even just a little bit), ask yourself what tender emotions may lie beneath it. You may feel self-doubt, confusion, anxiety, a sense of failure or regret, for example. Ask yourself if it's possible to communicate those more tender emotions rather than the anger and, if so, what you may say and how you may say it. Use mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices to help you notice anger without responding to the impulse to act on it. Anger's like an itch – it's beyond your control and just shows up. Whether you scratch it, however, is up to you!

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The 3 Pillars of Wellbeing – Being Open, Aware and Active

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) aims to increase your psychological flexibility so that you can improve your wellbeing and live a more meaningful and vital life. Psychological flexibility involves being open to and aware of all your experiences so that you can move your life forward in valued life directions. ACT helps you to develop three core skills: Being open involves welcoming and accepting life as it is, without trying to change or alter it. Being aware means noticing all your experiences, including your thoughts, feelings and memories. Being active concerns doing the things that matter to you and behaving in ways that are informed by and consistent with your values. You can think of these skills as three columns that maintain and support your psychological wellbeing. All three columns are necessary and the absence of any one of them will undermine your psychological wellbeing. For this reason, ACT provides exercises to help you develop and maintain each of these core skills. While all three skills are important, awareness is perhaps the most critical as it provides a platform to explore the other two skills. Being aware enables you to open up to all your experiences as you engage with your value-based goals. Mindfulness is central to ACT because it develops your awareness. Being in the present moment means you're better able to defuse from your thoughts (step back from their literal content) and thus be a little less dominated and controlled by them. Defusion creates space for you to think about your values and the types of things you want to be doing in life so that you can actively pursue goals based on them. When you're open, aware and active, you increase the likelihood of being able to do the things that matter to you – which is the key to living a fulfilled and meaningful life. When you behave consistently with your values, you can end each day with a sense of peace. It doesn't follow that everything will always work out or that life will be free from difficulties and distress, because that's impossible. What it does mean, however, is that you live according to what truly matters to you and do the things that give your life meaning and purpose.

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10 ACT Tips to Help You Lead a Better Life

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Use the following ten Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) tips to help you live a life defined by your values and not by your mind: Practise mindful awareness: Being aware of what you think and feel as you go about your daily life helps you to connect with the world in which you live. It's all too easy to spend lots of time in your mind, wondering, worrying, ruminating and planning, which, while sometimes useful, can also disconnect you from the real world. Be open: Being open to all your experiences, even when they're not very nice, enables you to get on with doing the things you want to be doing rather than trying to avoid or get rid of the things you don't want in your life. Put your mind on a lead: Your mind can dominate you and push you around. If you let it, it can try to make you stop doing things you want to do and do things you don't want to do. Remember that your mind is a useful tools for evaluating and analysing, but it can also get in the way of living in line with your values. Use mindfulness exercises to gain some distance from the content of your mind so that negative or unhelpful thoughts dominate you less. Actively pursue your value-based goals: In ACT, doing the things that matter in life means first being clear about your values – those things that matter to you most and instruct how you want to behave – and then setting SMART goals based on them. Practise empathy and compassion: From time to time, try to put yourself in another person's shoes. When you understand even a little of how another person feels, you can respond to him more effectively, and do something to ease his suffering in some small way. Be friendly: Smile and the world smiles with you. Be friendly and behave positively towards others and they'll respond to you in the same way. Be helpful: Co-operation is what holds a society together. Helping others makes both you and the recipients feel good. And what goes around comes around: if you assist someone in need, they'll want to assist you in the future. Listen to others: Listening is an underrated social skill! Too often your mind jumps in and starts spouting off about this and that. Try to focus on what someone's saying and hold off responding until you sense that he wants you to do so. Just listen and absorb. Be playful and try new things: You can get locked into old patterns of behaviour that don't take you in valued life directions. To establish new patterns – or no patterns at all! – have a go at something you've never tried before; take yourself out of your comfort zone and shake yourself up a little. For example, if you value being healthy and have always gone jogging on a Thursday night, take up jive instead. You'll still be keeping fit but doing so with new people, and getting the steps wrong is simply an opportunity for laughter. Give yourself reminders: Losing contact with and forgetting your values during the course of your busy life is all too easy. To keep them in the forefront of your mind, write down your core values on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet or purse, or stick it on the fridge. Alternatively, you can email the list to yourself periodically.

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An ACT Intervention with a Teenager Experiencing Anxiety and Paranoia

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Following an initial meeting with Marco and his parents, Duncan agreed to carry out a brief Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention that focused on defusion and setting value-based goals. When Duncan met Marco, he was 19 years old. His documented case history indicated that he was experiencing panic attacks and associated paranoid thoughts. In the initial meeting, Marco described two events that tended to precede his sense of anxiety: Adults walking past the window at the front of the house. The phone ringing, especially when he was home alone. He said that these events were followed by thoughts that the person outside was coming to take him away or commit a burglary in his home. When he talked about his experiences before and during panic attacks, Marco described feeling hot, panicky, dizzy and nauseous. He could feel his heart banging in his chest. When he experienced these panic attacks alone in the house, his typical response was to phone the police. Unsurprisingly, after 20 or so such phone calls, the police officers were concerned about this inefficient use of their time. During one particularly powerful experiential exercise, Duncan and Marco talked about the difference between words as sounds and the learned meanings associated with words. They considered how words come to have personal meaning as a result of the context in which they're used. They explored the word chocolate as an example and listed the various attributes associated with it: brown; sweet; tasty; sugary; an indulgence and so on. Duncan then invited Marco to join him in saying the word chocolate over and over again, for about 30 seconds, and asked him to take note of what happened as they did so. Afterwards, Marco described how the word gradually lost its meaning during the course of the exercise and ultimately became just a sound. Marco had defused from the literal meaning of the word chocolate. Duncan then invited Marco to work through the exercise again, but this time using the words 'they're coming to get me' – the thought that preceded his panic attacks. Marco practised this exercise regularly at home and as a result this phrase lost some of its potency. He was also able to recognise this thought when it emerged in the circumstances that usually led to his phoning the police (people walking past the house; the phone ringing). Rather than panicking, he acknowledged that he was having a troublesome thought – 'they're coming to get me' – accepted it even though he found it uncomfortable, and chose to ignore its literal content. Duncan also helped Marco to identify his values and set some value-based SMART goals. They considered the sort of person he'd like to be and how such a person would behave. After three sessions, Marco was able to respond differently to the situations that prompted his anxiety. He'd also identified some small steps he could take to create the life he wanted, which included doing a few minutes of mindfulness every day and playing tennis twice a week at the local sports centre.

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