Content reviewed by Khelsea Walker, Chief Executive Officer at New Hope Ranch

Effective recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders requires intimate, individualized treatment. Nearly all treatment facilities offer a wide range of treatment programs and therapeutic modalities for personalized patient care.

Not all individuals who recognize their need for treatment are ready to make a lifelong commitment to treatment and recovery. Still, contrary to what one may think, treatment can still be effective in helping patients overcome ambivalence or hesitations they may have that are keeping them from dedicating themselves to recovery. Similarly, certain treatment modalities can reduce negative and uncomfortable emotions that may surface throughout the treatment process.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is a valuable treatment modality that helps patients work through these issues, and many more, throughout short-term treatment and long-term recovery. For those who want to change but aren’t sure they’re ready to do so, ACT might be just the thing.

What is acceptance and commitment therapy in addiction recovery?

ACT is an action-oriented psychotherapy approach that helps patients strengthen their psychological flexibility. In other words, ACT encourages patients to embrace their thoughts and feelings, rather than dismissing, fighting or feeling guilty for them. It is a form of behavioral therapy that utilizes various concepts of mindfulness such as self-acceptance, non-judgment and awareness.

There are six primary components of ACT.

Psychological flexibility can be best understood through the psychological flexibility model, which is a behavior change model that recognizes how rule-following behavior can influence behavioral interaction. The psychological flexibility model characterizes this skill using six components, which set the standard for ACT. These include:

  1. Defusion
  2. Acceptance
  3. Self as context
  4. Contact with the present moment
  5. Values
  6. Committed action

In other words, psychological flexibility guides patients to consciously interact with the present moment and encourages them to actively change behavior that is inconsistent with their values. In ACT sessions, psychological flexibility helps patients identify their personal values and work to behave in ways that align with such values.

What to Expect During ACT in a recovery program

Depending on a patient’s treatment needs and goals, ACT sessions may vary significantly between patients. Generally, an ACT session will involve a therapist and patient working together to bring awareness to problematic thought and behavior patterns. This is different from other therapeutic modalities because the focus of the conversation is not on what problems the patient is talking about, but rather on how the patient is talking about their problem.

Throughout sessions, a therapist will teach the patient how to listen to their own self-talk, especially when it is particularly negative, uncomfortable or stressful. When a problem surfaces, the patient can assess the urgency of the problem and decide if there is anything the patient can do to change it. If it is a problem that cannot be changed, the therapist will help the patient learn to accept the problem at hand and identify coping mechanisms for when the problem arises. A therapist will work with the patient to evaluate what coping skills work for them and empower the patient to overcome their problematic thought and behavior patterns.

ACT can be uncomfortable, especially during initial sessions, because it is an innate human quality to try to control one’s life situation as well as associated thoughts and feelings. It recognizes that mindfulness skills are beneficial and essential in navigating all of life’s discomfort and uncertainty. As patients take the necessary steps to change their behavior while learning to accept any discomfort that may surface throughout the process, patients can take control of their own attitudes and emotional states.

How can ACT aid in recovery from substance use disorder?

It is no surprise that substance use and addiction can have lasting consequences on one’s mental and physical health. More specifically, substance use can interfere with the way that the brain communicates with itself. This disrupted communication can cause an individual to feel controlled by compulsive substance-seeking and substance-using behaviors. As a result, many people who struggle with chronic and repeated substance use also struggle with their own understanding of self-worth and identity. It is not uncommon for individuals who experience addiction to also experience intrusive thoughts, which tend to guide problematic and reckless behavior.

Typically, individuals who struggle with repeated substance use do not understand the underlying biological and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate it. ACT can aid in recovery from substance use and addiction because it helps patients bring awareness to how their thoughts affect their behavior and vice versa. It encourages patients to address their past substance use and empowers them to discover healthier and more appropriate ways to respond to temptations in the future.

Individuals seeking recovery often find that ACT is an invaluable treatment modality that can encourage them to prioritize their identity, self-worth and associated personal values. When a patient experiences bumps throughout their treatment and recovery journey, ACT can help them persevere.

New Hope Ranch is a men’s only addiction treatment facility that utilizes various therapeutic modalities for treatment. We create individualized treatment plans for all of our patients to ensure that all personal needs and treatment goals are met throughout our patient’s treatment experience. We are dedicated to fostering a comfortable and safe healing environment for men seeking refuge and recovery from the devastating effects of substance abuse and addiction. To learn more about our treatment facility or for more information about our treatment programs, give us a call today at (737) 600-8565