East meets West — mindfulness and acceptance in Western psychotherapy

Acceptance and Commitment therapy is the only off shoot of Behavioral Therapy that I have any tolerance for whatsover. I know lots of people love CBT and DBT but I have found them absolutely insufferable. See here why I like “ACT.” Wish they’d drop all these damn letter names though!

From The Times:

A new book says that trying to be happy will only make you sad, writes Albert Buhr

Imagine your happiness depended on the following instruction: for the next minute, do not think of Daffy Duck. Don’t think of his daffiness. Forget he’s a duck. Whatever you do, resist the urge to contemplate any Loony Tunes character.

Your time starts now.

How you doing? Concentrate!

Let me guess: you blew it. You should consider that you might have Daffy Duck Disorder. But, of course, you were set up.

Trying so hard to forget something is a sure way of remembering. And when it comes to unpleasant thoughts and feelings, explains Russ Harris in The Happiness Trap, it’s often our very struggle to forget about them that ensures their perpetuation.

The Happiness Trap inhabits a special spot on the self-help shelf, because it goes cheerfully against the grain of so many books dedicated to the heroic pursuit of happiness. It is based on the new Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which presents a radical about-turn in modern, conventional forms of Western psychotherapy.

It views ongoing attempts to get rid of symptoms as creating clinical disorder. Positive thinking, it suggests, is a control strategy that merely addles the tired mind.

“ACT is a mindfulness-based behavioural therapy that challenges the ground rules of most Western psychology,” explains Dr Harris, a general practitioner and psychotherapist based in Melbourne, Australia. “It’s a therapy that makes no attempt to reduce symptoms, but gets symptom reduction as a by-product. A therapy firmly based in the tradition of empirical science, yet has a major emphasis on values, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, living in the present moment, and accessing a transcendent sense of self.”

With a large body of empirical data to support its efficacy, ACT has proven effective with a wide range of clinical conditions: depression, OCD, workplace stress, chronic pain, the stress of terminal cancer, anxiety, PTSD, anorexia and drug addiction. A study conducted in 2002 by Steven Hayes, the co-originator of ACT, showed that with only four hours of ACT therapy, hospital readmission rates for schizophrenic patients dropped by 50% over the following six months.

“It is only through mindful action that we can create a meaningful life,” says Harris, who runs workshops for psychologists, life coaches, doctors and other healthcare professionals in the use of “mindfulness”.

“Of course, as we attempt to create such a life, we will encounter all sorts of barriers, in the form of unpleasant and unwanted ‘private experiences’ — thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges and memories. ACT teaches mindfulness skills as a way to handle these private experiences, allowing your feelings to be as they are, letting them come and go rather than trying to control them.

“In ACT, acceptance comes first. Y ou make room for your feelings and allow them to be exactly as they are. Then you ask, ‘What can I do now that is truly meaningful or important?’ This is very different from asking ‘How can I feel better?’”

Anyone struggling with conditions like acute anxiety or depression may at some point find themselves drawn to the philosophy of acceptance. (read the rest)

If you look up Acceptance and Commitment Therapy on Amazon you can browse to what has become quite an array of books that can be helpful to many.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters