- Jul 6
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a method to help clients overcome their substance abuse problems in a way that can improve every aspect of their lives by overcoming experiential avoidance. Different patients need to focus on different aspects of the model, depending on their individual life circumstances. Evidence-based ACT works relatively quickly and the strategies learned can last the rest of a patient’s life.
ACT makes some assumptions about human nature that make it unlike other commonly used approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), since its goal is not to erase problems, but to learn to live with them. These assumptions are:
- Suffering is normal. ACT shows that the idea you need to get rid of psychological pain to be normal or content with life often leads to more pain and is often a non-winnable struggle.
- Control is the problem, not the solution. People turn to drugs and alcohol when it feels like life is out of control or when they try to avoid negative thoughts or situations. Drugs and alcohol can work to control how someone feels—sometimes, in the short-term—but there are usually painful consequences.
The Six Basic Themes of ACT
- Values – What are the patient’s values and how can they live by them?
- Action – What real-world goals can help the patient become who they want to be?
- Cognitive fusion – What thoughts cause the patient difficulties and how can they give less power to them?
- Acceptance – How can the patient learn to live with the negative things in life rather than avoiding or changing things that can’t be changed?
- Observation – The patient learns how to step back and reflect on what is going on inside their mind.
- The present – The patient learns how to be more present in the moment rather than preoccupied with the past or the future.
What Does the Research Say?
While ACT is relatively new compared to traditional CBT or 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, ACT has shown great promise as an approach to helping those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Studies from methadone-maintenance programs show that including ACT in therapeutic interventions reduced both opiate and other drug use. ACT has also been shown to be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking long-term. There is also evidence for ACT and recovery from alcohol addiction.
Why does Gateway Use ACT?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:
- Encourages individuals to develop short-term and long-term goals for themselves.
- Increases psychological flexibility while decreasing the desire for patterns that lead to the patient’s suffering.
- Helps patients embrace their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a compassionate manner.
- Promotes the development of value- and goal-orientated behaviors.
How does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Relate to Mindfulness-Based Sobriety?
ACT is one of the evidence-based practices used in Mindfulness-Based Sobriety. Many people shy away from thinking about issues in their lives because it causes them pain or resurfaces insecurities. For many, rather than address their feelings they turn to a quick fix or avoid the matter completely. By paying attention, without judgment, to the issues at hand, patients learn a method of thinking that can positively affect their long-term recovery and sobriety.
Evidence-Based Addiction Therapy at Gateway
At Gateway, our drug and alcohol rehab centers in Illinois offer proven addiction therapy services to help individuals stop using and start living. To learn more about our personalized addiction treatment programs, contact Gateway today.