Acceptance and Behaviour Therapy (ACT) is ideally suited to delivery through online counselling. According to ACT in times of distress and when we are in addiction phases we often become fused with our thoughts and we elevate their importance to facts. So, a thought to drink, to eat or take drugs becomes a fact or an order that must be obeyed. ACT encourages people to notice and accept their thoughts and feelings and also shows them strategies to remove their power. Clients working with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy learn various techniques to diffuse the power of addictive thoughts such as reframing the thought with a funny voice and picturing the thought as a cartoon character. The goal in ACT is for clients to discover their core values and commit to a course of action based on their values.
When ACT is delivered through online counselling with professional organisations such as www.counsellingonline.biz the goal for clients will be help them lead a rich and meaningful life while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. Addiction can be a large block to leading such a life and with ACT we support the client to understand that addictive impulses such as thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, urges and memories can all have their power and hold over us removed by using mindfulness and other strategies to handle such experiences.
Many therapies that try to work with addictions try to teach people that addictive thoughts are something ‘pathological’ that we should try and get rid of. ACT works differently and supports people as they transform their relationship with difficult thoughts and feelings so that we no longer think of them as ‘symptoms’. We learn to perceive them as harmless (sometime uncomfortable) temporary and transient psychological events.
ACT also does not try and tell people there is a ‘normal’ that we should aspire to or try and become.
Many issues of addictive behaviour involve avoidance – avoidance of uncomfortable thoughts, and feelings. The problem is the more we try and avoid uncomfortable thoughts or feelings the more these thoughts or feelings will intrude into our consciousness. So, we drink, take drugs, gamble to avoid thinking or feelings certain things. This is called experiential avoidance. This may work in the very short term, but not in the long run. ACT calls these ‘emotional control strategies’ that clients try to feel good (or less worse)
ACT offers clients an alternative to experiential avoidance with specific therapeutic interventions. Through the effective use of mindfulness. Clients learn to stop fighting with their private experiences—to open up to them, make room for them, and allow them to come and go without a struggle. The time, energy, and money that they wasted previously on trying to control how they feel is then invested in taking effective action (guided by their values) to change their life for the better.
Matthew Reynolds has a gradute diploma is Counselling and a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He was a qualified accountant before embarking on a more satisfying career of counselling.