We all know that life will naturally lead people to experience stress and anxiety. For some people, these stresses can be too much to bear, and addiction forms as an unhealthy way of coping with anxiety. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behavioral therapy that strives to overcome negative thoughts and feelings by promoting a more fulfilled life. The goal of ACT is to help a person choose to act effectively even when faced with stressful or disruptive situations.
There are three main components to ACT:
- Accept the effects of life’s hardships
- Choose directional values
- Take action
ACT serves as the foundation for all treatment modalities at Silver Ridge. There is no way to completely eliminate difficult events from your life, but learning how to accept and manage them rather than turning to drugs or alcohol is an effective means of fighting addiction.
Separating Thoughts from Actual Facts
What drives a person to indulge in addiction? Studies have shown that it usually stems from extreme stress and feelings of worthlessness. Forgetting about problems by indulging in drugs or alcohol may help you forget troubles for a time, but that does not mean they’re no longer there. The problems of today remain tomorrow, and they may be worse now because of the choices made yesterday.
Leaving problems unaddressed can lead to feelings of worthlessness. A person may think discouraging thoughts such as “I’m worthless. I can’t do anything. I will never be able to accomplish anything.” These feelings can further tempt a person to use substance abuse as a way to quiet the thoughts. ACT encourages people to address these thoughts and recognize them as perceptions and not actual truths.
The ACT Process
Just recognizing that thoughts are not always facts is not enough. Many people respond to recognition with resistance, but this creates an internal debate that can make the feelings worse. It is more important to accept the feeling and start making changes to make things better. For example, if a person was struggling with a past event, it would be important for them to accept the fact that it happened and choose to move forward rather than dwelling on what could have been different.
The ACT Process broken down:
- Accept – Accept that bad things happen or have happened. If you start to feel anxiety or stress, let it come and go as needed without acting upon it. Live through the anxiety rather than letting it dictate how you live.
- Defuse – When negative thoughts begin to plague the mind, remember that they are just thoughts. Change “I am bad” to “I think I am bad.” Reframing how you think of disturbing thoughts can help you overcome them once and for all.
- Focus – It’s tempting to dwell on the mistakes of the past, but you should focus on what you can do about it now. Do not avoid the thoughts by distancing yourself from them through substances. Ask yourself how you can make things actually better now.
Incorporating ACT into your day-to-day life can be difficult. At Silver Ridge, we will immerse you or your loved one into a program led by licensed and experienced therapists who can teach you the fundamentals of ACT. Treating addiction requires more than getting it out of your system—you need the tools to resist its pull for the future.