The benefits of ACT are what caught my attention as a therapist in 2018. Then I dove deeper into learning about this incredibly cool therapeutic approach. When I took the ACT course from Stephen C. Hayes, I realized that ACT fits my life philosophy on a very deep level. I began to actively apply its principles in my life, and I completely switched to ACT methods in my professional work.
ACT became a real discovery and allowed me to achieve unprecedented results. As an ACT therapist, I have been conducting more than 1000 consultations per year for more than 5 years in a row. I believe that this became possible due to the incredible benefits of ACT, which I want to talk about in this article. Let’s go.
ACT is not tied to the number of consultations. We have no requirements for the client regarding the number or frequency of consultations. Of course, the number and frequency affect the result, but ACT allows you to benefit the client with any number of consultations.
Before each consultation, looking through my notes, case conceptualization, and plans for the consultation, I remind myself that today may be the last consultation. What is the most useful thing I can do right now if there will never be another consultation?
An ACT therapist can conduct the number of consultations that suit the client. It can be 3 or 10. It can even be an unlimited number. With any number of consultations, you can get a therapeutic effect.
ACT allows you to work effectively on all aspects of the client’s request. The problem never exists by itself (per se). Most often, it manifests itself or affects all areas of the client’s life.
The ACT therapist can apply therapeutic interventions to any aspect of the client’s request. For example, a client comes to me with a problem of anxiety. Because of it, he began to avoid social situations. He also started to have tension with his partner. And he is also addicted to mobile games as a way to avoid anxiety.
ACT allows us to work on all aspects of the query. We do not need to break it down into separate components and focus our efforts on a single circumstance.
The ACT therapist borrows any methods and techniques of other approaches without prejudice. The main thing is that they or their interpretations correspond to functional pragmatism and other philosophical principles of ACT.
Taking courses by Stephen C. Hayes, Russ Harris, Sonia Bannett, Joe Oliver, and others, you can see elements of other approaches. Moreover, these authors calmly explain where and why they borrowed this or that technique.
Any ACT therapist can do the same. Of course, it is a bit difficult to imagine how one can work with dreams or metaphorical cards within the framework of contextual-behavioral science, but I think that the answer is nearby.
Most human problems have an interpersonal manifestation. There is no psychological problem that is not related to the social dimension. ACT teaches to shift the focus from oneself to relationships with others.
Specific methods and techniques of ACT can significantly improve the effectiveness of communication and cooperation with others. When the environment ceases to be a threat and a source of anxiety, a person’s life and psychological health improve significantly.
ACT is flexible and does not require you to avoid life until you are ready, “will solve your inner conflicts,” “cope with internal neurosis,” or “close gestalts.” ACT allows you to improve your life by living it to the fullest here and now.
Decentralized professional community
This advantage is more important for ACT therapists, but it can also be important for clients when choosing a professional. A decentralized, horizontally organized community protects the field from dogmatism and formalism.
The ACT world is built on the principles of equality and mutual respect. We have no institution that would tell everyone what is “real” ACT or not real. The hierarchy is built solely on the competence and conventional consent of other community members.
Over the years of my psychotherapeutic work, I have been a member of many professional organizations. However, after I started practicing exclusively the ACT approach in 2018 and joined the ACBS, I left all other organizations. None of them can compete in usefulness, support, or efficiency of processes with ACBS.
The modern mental health industry is going through a serious crisis. It was obviously built on the model of a “typical” medical model. However, the human psyche is obviously qualitatively more complex.
I will not dwell much on the criticism of DSM-V; my colleagues have already done it. I am more interested in what alternatives we can create. ACT, as a model, is built on the interaction of six basic processes. And the idea is to focus our efforts on the work of these processes, not on the search for labels and symptoms.
Of course, this approach is not well received by the traditional healthcare community and insurance companies. However, if we look at the problem from the point of view of our clients, we realize that they are more interested in a full and conscious life than in a diagnosis and a prescription.
From the very beginning, ACT was born in a scientific environment. To some extent, ACT was an attempt by the scientific community to answer the question of the effectiveness of psychotherapy. The team behind the creation of ACT conducted a huge amount of research and analyzed the results of clinical trials.
The main question was why some therapeutic approaches work and give lasting results, while others do not. It was as a result of the analysis of more than 44 thousand studies that certain patterns were noticed. If therapeutic interventions contributed to the development of psychological flexibility – the effect came and lasted long enough.
And vice versa: If the therapeutic intervention developed psychological rigidity in the patient, the therapy could not demonstrate effectiveness. Or the results were short-term.
ACT therapist – the personification of the model
When you go to an ACT therapist, you can be sure of two things: First, he or she has done exactly everything that he or she offers you. All techniques, methods, and metaphors were applied by him to solve his own issues. Secondly, these methods have brought results. Precisely because the ACT methods were effective for the therapist, he/she applied them to the client.
This is one of the most important advantages of the ACT model. There are practically no boundaries between therapist and client. The ACT therapist is a person who has more experience in applying ACT. However, the client is also a person who receives the experience of ACT.
Given this, the client can easily and quickly decide if ACT is right for them. Just look at the ACT therapist. Do you see skills and abilities that you would like to have yourself? If so, welcome aboard.
In the ACT, there is no special, closed information for therapists and openly available information for clients. If you decide to study ACT for yourself, you have the same access to all books, courses, and articles as a therapist.
This approach allows the client to optimize the therapy process. In ACT, the client does not need to wait for the next consultation, because there he will be provided with “secret” knowledge that is not available in any other way. On the contrary, clients who make independent efforts—read books, watch videos—can significantly speed up the therapy process.
ACT is a deeply humanistic therapeutic approach. It fully recognizes the existence of human suffering and pain. It understands how difficult it is sometimes to live and to pursue your goals. How much disappointment and pain there is along the way.
But at the same time, ACT fully concentrates on the person, not on his “diseases”. ACT does not just try to deal with problems, but, first of all, directs all efforts to achieve fullness and richness of life.
ACT proceeds from the fact that if we overcome all the problems in life – it still will not lead us to an ideal life. But if we build an ideal life – we will find answers to our difficult questions at the same time.
In conclusion, I want to say that the biggest advantage of ACT for me is its focus on psychological flexibility. I see hope in this for all of us. Hope that we don’t have to spend our whole lives struggling with suffering. Life always contains both joyful moments and the pain of loss and suffering. ACT teaches us not to spend our lives struggling with difficult feelings. ACT teaches us to accept them as an integral part of life, but to focus on what is important for living a full, conscious, interesting life.