Incorporating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at the Workplace

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Incorporating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at the Workplace

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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) aims at helping the person to accept the difficulties that are part of life. Therapists across the world have been using ACT to help their patients for a long time.

ACT helps individuals reduce stress and help with mindfulness. The therapy helps the patient to overcome negative thoughts and feelings. During acceptance and commitment therapy, the therapist analyzes the character traits and behaviours of the person, addresses his or her commitment to making the necessary changes in life and provides support when a person faces difficulties in sticking to the goals.

The Six Core Processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

The general goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility – the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being, and to change or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends. Psychological flexibility is established through six core ACT processes. Each of these areas are conceptualized as a positive psychological skill, not merely a method of avoiding psychopathology.

1. Acceptance

Acceptance is taught as an alternative to experiential avoidance. Acceptance involves the active and aware embrace of those private events occasioned by one’s history without unnecessary attempts to change their frequency or form, especially when doing so would cause psychological harm. For example, anxiety patients are taught to feel anxiety, as a feeling, fully and without defense; pain patients are given methods that encourage them to let go of a struggle with pain, and so on. Acceptance (and defusion) in ACT is not an end in itself. Rather acceptance is fostered as a method of increasing values-based action.

2. Cognitive Defusion

Cognitive defusion techniques attempt to alter the undesirable functions of thoughts and other private events, rather than trying to alter their form, frequency or situational sensitivity.

Said another way, ACT attempts to change the way one interacts with or relates to thoughts by creating contexts in which their unhelpful functions are diminished. There are scores of such techniques that have been developed for a wide variety of clinical presentations.

For example, a negative thought could be watched dispassionately, repeated out loud until only its sound remains, or treated as an externally observed event by giving it a shape, size, color, speed, or form. A person could thank their mind for such an interesting thought, label the process of thinking (“I am having the thought that I am no good”), or examine the historical thoughts, feelings, and memories that occur while they experience that thought.

Such procedures attempt to reduce the literal quality of the thought, weakening the tendency to treat the thought as what it refers to (“I am no good”) rather than what it is directly experienced to be (e.g., the thought “I am no good”). The result of defusion is usually a decrease in believability of, or attachment to, private events rather than an immediate change in their frequency.

3. Being Present

ACT promotes ongoing non-judgmental contact with psychological and environmental events as they occur. The goal is to have clients experience the world more directly so that their behavior is more flexible and thus their actions more consistent with the values that they hold. This is accomplished by allowing workability to exert more control over behavior; and by using language more as a tool to note and describe events, not simply to predict and judge them. A sense of self called “self as process” is actively encouraged: the defused, non-judgmental ongoing description of thoughts, feelings, and other private events.

4. Self as Context

Self as Context is the idea that an individual is not simply the sum of their experiences, thoughts, or emotions. The “self as context” process offers the alternative concept that there is a self outside of the current experience.

Self as context is important in part because from this standpoint, one can be aware of one’s own flow of experiences without attachment to them or an investment in which particular experiences occur: thus defusion and acceptance is fostered. Self as context is fostered in ACT by mindfulness exercises, metaphors, and experiential processes.

5. Values

Values are chosen qualities of purposive action that can never be obtained as an object but can be instantiated moment by moment. ACT uses a variety of exercises to help a client choose life directions in various domains (e.g. family, career, spirituality) while undermining verbal processes that might lead to choices based on avoidance, social compliance, or fusion (e.g. “I should value X” or “A good person would value Y” or “My mother wants me to value Z”). In ACT, acceptance, defusion, being present, and so on are not ends in themselves; rather they clear the path for a more vital, values consistent life.

6. Committed Action

Finally, ACT encourages the development of larger and larger patterns of effective action linked to chosen values. In this regard, ACT looks very much like traditional behavior therapy, and almost any behaviorally coherent behavior change method can be fitted into an ACT protocol, including exposure, skills acquisition, shaping methods, goal setting, and the like.

Unlike values, which are constantly instantiated but never achieved as an object, concrete goals that are values consistent can be achieved and ACT protocols almost always involve therapy work and homework linked to short, medium, and long-term behavior change goals. Behavior change efforts in turn lead to contact with psychological barriers that are addressed through other ACT processes (acceptance, defusion, and so on).

Why Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at the Workplace

ACT can be delivered effectively in groups, which is the typical format for worksite training programs, and thus a natural fit in the workplace. Walser and Pistorello highlight a number of advantages associated with delivering ACT in groups:

Wrapping Up

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy aims to improve performance and reduce stress for workers by supporting the development of psychological flexibility at the jobsite.

Organizations and corporations benefit when leaders, managers, and front-line workers are psychologically flexible. Research suggests that psychological flexibility, and the ACTraining that accelerates this characteristic, improves work performance, job satisfaction, mental health, training outcomes, and propensity to innovate, while reducing work stress, absenteeism, burnout, and job-related errors.

Now that you know the significance of ACT, how do you plan to incorporate it in your workplace wellness? Tell us in the comments below!

This article is written by Priyakshi Sharma who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. In her free time, she is found writing about cinema, life, and everything in between. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

This content was originally published here.

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