Should You Consider ACT For Anxiety Treatment?

Anxiety is one of the top reasons people enter therapy, but not all anxiety treatments are created equal. Each client responds differently to various therapeutic modalities, and what works well for one individual may not be the best treatment for someone else. Therefore, it is essential to find the best approach for your specific needs, experiences, and goals. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety can be highly effective in helping people decrease their reactivity to life’s stressors. Moreover, it supports people in finding a newer and healthier way to perceive their anxiety. Let’s explore if it’s the right option for you! 

What Is ACT?

Developed by psychologist Steven Hayes in 1982, ACT is a type of psychotherapy that blends both cognitive and behavioral therapies. ACT focuses on how fostering acceptance can increase one’s tolerance to triggering thoughts or painful emotional experiences. 

In ACT, the goal is not necessarily about reducing distressing thoughts or urges. Instead, the goal is more along the lines of accepting and even embracing how you cope with life’s challenges. In other words, you will learn how to be more present and engaged with whatever obstacles enter your path. 

Thus, at its core, ACT focuses on themes of acceptance. We all struggle with situations and people that we cannot control. Likewise, we all experience difficult feelings of fear, sadness, and helplessness. 

Trying to suppress or even control these emotions can lead to more distress. However, learning how to accept these experiences and emotions often helps people feel more empowered in their lives. After all, acceptance helps you handle tough situations with more grace and control. And that grace and control can make you feel like a happier and healthier person overall.

ACT also embraces the notion of taking ownership and action over how you handle specific issues. You will learn that you either need to accept the situation- or commit to making an appropriate behavioral change. Taking these committed actions helps you live congruently with your values.

How Can ACT For Anxiety Help You?

Let’s face it. Anxiety can make daily living feel like an impossible chore. Whether you struggle with panic attacks, intrusive flashbacks, racing thoughts, or the profound fear of how others perceive you, anxiety can dramatically impact your quality of life.

In ACT, your therapist will likely begin by teaching you appropriate mindfulness exercises. There are many different exercises, and mindfulness can include grounding techniques, meditation and deep breathing, and taking a nonjudgmental stance to your environment. These exercises will help you become more connected to the present- which will foster your overall acceptance of living life in the actual moment.

Your therapist will also work with you to support you in examining and identifying the narratives you tell yourself about your anxiety. For example, do you become highly critical and agitated with yourself when you feel anxious? Do you tend to become self-conscious and cynical?

ACT is about accepting your anxiety and making peace with your symptoms via a curious and nonjudgmental perspective. Acceptance is a two-fold process. First, you start to approach life’s stressors with less reactivity. Second, you begin to become more aware of your own values and desires. With this new insight, your therapist can help you navigate living a life that feels more authentic and congruent. 

What Are The Main Differences Between CBT And ACT?

Both ACT and CBT can yield impressive benefits in anxiety treatment, and both modalities have several “crossover” principles. Furthermore, many therapists take an overlapping or eclectic approach to working with clients. 

Both modalities tend to be collaborative, goal-oriented, and structured. Your therapist may assign homework to help you practice new skills in between sessions. 

CBT exists on the premise that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are largely connected. This theory largely focuses on reframing cognitive distortions and integrating healthy coping strategies to change negative thoughts and distressing feelings.

ACT doesn’t focus on changing thoughts or controlling behaviors. Instead, it teaches clients how to observe, notice, and accept their circumstances. It also focuses on supporting clients to increase living in ways that align with their intended goals and values.

Final Thoughts

No matter how hopeless your circumstances feel, you don’t have to continue living in your suffering! Help is available, and it is possible to learn how to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. 

ACT for anxiety can provide you with tremendous relief and support for your anxiety condition. Furthermore, individual therapy offers you the unique opportunity to focus on your needs, wants, and desires- without worrying about taking care of anyone else.

Are you interested in learning more about how therapy can help you? Contact Willow Counseling today to schedule a session.

Willow Counseling, PLLC

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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