What exactly is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
For a variety of reasons, chronic pain is a growing problem. More people are surviving serious accidents and illnesses, leaving them with ongoing pain that must be managed on a daily basis; growing numbers of people are spending a large portion of their lives in old age, with the pain that advanced years can bring, and auto-immune disorders are on the rise. We have also, quite rightly, become less prepared to tolerate pain and a lowered quality of life, and more motivated to find ways to deal with it.
Medication and other medical interventions can all have an important role to play in managing pain, but they are not a complete solution—and painkillers can also become less effective over time. Fortunately, there are also other approaches that can make a huge difference to the quality of life of people who suffer from chronic pain disorders.
If you suffer from chronic pain, you may find Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helpful. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a therapeutic approach that has been proven to help people who live with chronic pain by making it easier for them to control their emotional and cognitive reactions to it. It can help you to acquire behaviours that will be more useful to you in terms of establishing a high quality of life despite the challenges you face.
You will be helped to accept the chronic pain you suffer from as an objective reality and to commit to finding ways to work towards your goals despite your pain and within the context of your value system.Working together with your therapist, you will figure out what your goals and values are. For example, Carole might feel strongly that she wants to be independent, so she needs to find a way to get back to work and travel abroad without letting her condition stand in her way. Because her chronic pain is an objective reality, she will need to figure out how to manage it without letting it stop her from achieving what she wants to do. She may realise that she can achieve her goals but may have to adapt or modify them. For instance, perhaps she imagined herself travelling the world alone, and taking part in sports such as hang-gliding or scuba-diving. She may need to modify this plan to encompass travelling with a companion and taking part in organised tours at least some of the time so that she can rest. She can commit to making small changes in her life until she is in a better position to meet her goals.
With Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, you also learn how to react to your pain symptoms in a more productive way. Rather than battling them, you learn to accept that they are there and acknowledge your feelings of sorrow and loss for how things used to be. In this way, you can neutralise emotions such as anger, resentment, and bitterness, and acquire a greater degree of control over your feelings.
Although you may have to live with a degree of chronic pain long-term, or even for the rest of your life, when you feel in control, you should find that your pain levels reduce, or at least trouble you less. This is because you have reduced your stress levels; higher levels of stress make us all feel pain more acutely. Of course, nobody wants to live with chronic pain, and engaging in a therapeutic process to reduce its impact on your life can be challenging at first. However, your therapist can lead you through exercises that, when you start to apply them to your life, will make a real and lasting difference. Your pain may never disappear completely, but your quality of life can, and will, get better!
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.