Developed in the 1980’s, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a counselling approach which has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a number of human concerns, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders.
More recently, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy has been found to be useful in the couples counselling setting.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
ACT is based on modern behavioural psychology, but also incorporates the mindfulness principles often seen in ancient eastern religions.
However unlike behavioural psychology approaches which aim to help people better control their unhelpful, negative, or distressing thoughts and feelings, ACT is about learning to simply notice and accept them, along with certain behaviour change strategies.
The aim of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility, and therefore your quality of life, by:
- teaching you the skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively;
- helping your clarify your values – what is truly important and meaningful to you – and then use them to motivate you to create positive change.
Rather than trying to control how you feel, instead ACT aims to help you take control of what you do – thereby improving your sense of wellbeing.
In the context of couple counselling, ACT can improve the quality of your relationship, no matter what stage it may be at. It does this through teaching you and your partner to:
- be more present and engaged, both individually, and with your partner;
- let go of unhelpful beliefs and attitudes about love (some of these common myths include: “love is easy”; “the perfect partner”; and “love lasts forever”).
- handle the painful thoughts and feelings that will arise in any relationship. Instead of unleashing words and actions particularly in heated moments, which damage your relationship, you will each learn to be more aware of your behavioural patterns, and how to choose more helpful ones;
- negotiate your needs; and,
- identify your values, and take actions directed by these instead of simply being swept away by anger and hurt feelings.
ACT for Couples: What to Expect
As with any form of professional couples counselling, you can expect:
- a safe, relaxed, and comfortable space to discuss any problems or issues;
- to learn new skills, and new ways of thinking and handling difficulties;
- to have “homework” to complete between sessions – eg some reading, keeping a log, or practising the skills you have learned in session;
- to build a better relationship!
If you and your partner find yourselves arguing about the same old things, or simply want to improve your relationship, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy provides you with an opportunity to not only enhance your connection as a couple, but also your individual wellbeing.
Author: Shokria Siddiqui, BSc.Psych, PGDipPsych, PGDipMH, MPsych, MAPS.
Shokria Siddiqui is a Brisbane Psychologist providing couples counselling to those wanting to form a closer connection with each other, as well as those experiencing relationship distress. By implementing evidence-based therapies that have been scientifically tested, building rapport with her clients, and creating a safe therapeutic space, Shokria helps her clients to better meet life’s challenges.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or or Online Booking – Loganholme, or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.
- Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, Vol 16, Issue 4, November 2009, Pages 430-442. Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Treat Distressed Couples: A Case Study With Two Couples.
- Harris, Russ. (2009) ACT with Love: stop struggling, reconcile differences, and strengthen your relationship with acceptance and commitment therapy. Oakland, CA, USA: New Harbinger.