JFS Perspectives

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mental Health Matters: ACT for Your Life: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Mental Health Matters: ACT for Your Life: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

By Nicole Whitman, Mental Health Specialists social work intern

Psychotherapist Deborah Goodman, LCSW, and I recently led an eight-week group, ACT for Your Life, a new therapeutic group based on the teachings of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
This innovative and science-based therapy teaches mindfulness skills in the context of values and committed action. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been proven effective with a diverse range of clinical and everyday conditions, including anxiety, depression, anger, and chronic pain. It is about taking effective action that is guided by our deepest values while being present and engaged with our experiences.

The goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is to increase psychological flexibility so that you can create a rich, full, and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably comes with it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps you achieve this goal through six core principles:

  1. Cognitive defusion is the ability to look at your thoughts rather than from your thoughts.
  2. Acceptance is making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, urges, and other private experiences.
  3. Contact with the present moment is bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experiences, sometimes called “mindfulness.”
  4. The observing self is the stable and unchanging perspective from which you think and feel that transcends the changing emotions, thoughts, judgments, and labels of the self.
  5. Values help clarify what is most important, deep in your heart, and what you want to stand for in life.
  6. Committed action incorporates setting goals guided by your values, and taking effective action to achieve them.

How Can I Practice Mindfulness? Try This Mindfulness Breathing Exercise!

In this exercise, find a comfortable and stable position, either sitting or lying on your back. Allow your back to be straight but not rigid. Let your arms and hands rest in a relaxed position. Close your eyes, if it feels comfortable. If not, soften your gaze. Be still and focus on your breath for one minute. Start by breathing in and out slowly. One cycle should last for approximately six seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. Let go of your thoughts and pending projects that need your attention. Simply let yourself be still for one minute. Purposefully feel your breath, focusing your senses on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life, and then feel it work its way up and out of your mouth as its energy dissipates into the world.

To learn more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and when the next group is starting, contact JFS Mental Health Specialists at 303.597.7777.

Nicole Whitman, BA, is a social work intern for the Jewish Family Service Mental Health Specialists program. She is pursuing a master’s degree in social work and will continue her practice in the field of mental health. Nicole has most recently provided case management for job development participants at Mi Casa Resource Center.


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