According to the CDC, 1 in 14 Americans reports experiencing a substance use disorder. Yet, although addiction is a treatable disease, many factors lead to substance use, making it challenging to overcome. 

Many people with substance use disorder choose to use therapy as part of their treatment process. One such therapy option to consider is acceptance and commitment therapy. 

Continue reading to learn about this therapy and how it can assist with long-term recovery. 

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a form of psychotherapy. It helps patients accept what is out of their control and commit to actions that enhance their lives.

ACT emphasizes acceptance and mindfulness as a way to handle negative thoughts. As a result, patients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with inner emotions. Furthermore, they learn to accept these feelings as appropriate responses to specific situations. 

The goal isn’t to reduce the frequency or severity of unpleasant internal experiences. Instead, the idea is to reduce the struggle to control or eliminate these experiences while increasing involvement in healthy, constructive, and meaningful activities. 

The activities you partake in should be in line with your personal values. In ACT, you commit to necessary behavior changes regardless of what is going on in your life. You also learn to develop psychological flexibility and emotional wellbeing.

Most rehab centers in San Diego have professionals skilled in applying ACT. Since there is no special ACT certification, they acquire ACT skills through peer counseling and training programs.

What Conditions Can ACT Help With?

In addition to substance use disorder, professionals use ACT to help treat several conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Psychosis
  • Stress

If you have a duel-diagnosis, you may want to consider ACT as part of your treatment plan.

Six Core Methods of ACT 

There are six methods of ACT that guide patients through therapy. They are:

  • Acceptance
  • Cognitive defusion
  • Self as context 
  • Being present
  • Values 
  • Commitment

Acceptance means allowing your inner thoughts to occur without changing, denying, or ignoring them.

It’s an active process. Patients need to participate in accepting these emotions instead of passively letting them linger in their minds. 

Cognitive defusion is when you separate yourself from your inner thoughts. It allows you to understand that thoughts are simply thoughts. They don’t carry the importance your mind adds to them.

Methods for cognitive defusion include:

  • Observing thoughts without judgment
  • Singing thoughts
  • Labeling the automatic response you have

Self as context is learning to see your thoughts and actions as separate from each other. Additionally, you are more than your feelings and experiences. 

Being present teaches you to stay mindful of your surroundings and move your attention away from internal thoughts. Directly experiencing events can help foster behavior changes. 

By choosing personal values, you can strive to live according to those principles. Which areas of your life are important enough to motivate you? Answering this will help you identify your values and prepare to commit to change.

Finally, commitment means taking concrete steps to incorporate changes into your life that will align your values and lead to positive change. For example, you may start with setting goals or exposing yourself to difficult feelings. 

Practitioners at San Diego rehab centers teach you these methods in your sessions. They will walk you through how to apply them to your life. 

Mindfulness Exercises

Aside from the six core principles, many ACT practitioners also lead mindfulness exercises.

Mindfulness is becoming more aware of the present moment instead of living in the past or projecting into the future.

These exercises can help you create a nonjudgmental and healthy awareness of your feelings. Rather than changing the way you think, you can develop mindful behavior. 

Accepting your psychological experiences can change your attitude and emotional state.

ACT Benefits

The most significant benefit of ACT is psychological flexibility. This is the ability to embrace your feelings when they are helpful and leave them be when they are not. 

Flexibility allows you to respond to your feelings thoughtfully and prevents you from acting impulsively. This way, you can function with symptoms of your disorder and focus on living a meaningful life. 

Over time, your symptoms may lessen as a result. The professionals at drug and alcohol treatment centers in San Diego hope all of their patients can achieve these positive benefits.

The Success of ACT in Long-Term Recovery 

Many practitioners consider ACT a “third” or “new wave” psychotherapy. The term refers to several psychotherapies that emerged after cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Third-wave treatments are appropriate for those who haven’t benefited from pre-existing treatments. But for some, third-wave therapy is also a viable first-line treatment option.

Research shows that ACT is effective at treating several conditions and is helpful for those with several diagnoses. In addition, it seems to improve the quality of life and may also help with physical pain.

That said, there is no evidence that ACT is more effective than other forms of therapy. Moreover, because of the similarities between ACT and CBT, one is not better or more effective than the other. 

Find a Practitioner

If you want to find an ACT professional, you can look to:

  • Psychiatrists 
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Mental health counselors

These medical professionals can all provide ACT to patients.

Upon entering a treatment facility, there will be a skilled ACT practitioner that can work with you.

Since ACT is hands-on, you want a therapist that will include exercises and homework. Further, they should be an active, empathic, non-judgemental listener and active guide. 

Seek Help Today

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a worthwhile treatment to help those who struggle with substance use disorder or have a dual diagnosis. It can allow you to lead a happy and fulfilled life. 

If you’re interested in learning more about our addiction recovery programs, reach out to us at Apex Recovery. We’re a leading San Diego alcohol rehabilitation center. Our clinical team is highly trained and offers individualized care with compassion.