Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based treatment that derives its name from what’s at the very core of its function: to accept and commit. Instead of pushing away or fighting with unpleasant emotions, ACT challenges people to focus on accepting them and working to more clearly understand why they exist. Doing this helps each client more effectively address the issues at the root of their eating disorder, teaching them how to cope with their emotions in healthier ways.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) forms the basis for ACT. In treatment, clients gradually learn to stop the avoiding behaviors they often use when faced with problems. Instead of denying or ignoring difficulties, they learn to recognize and confront them. Only when they acknowledge an issue can they move forward.
So, how does ACT help clients with eating disorders? Maybe an individual uses food as comfort when faced with painful thoughts. It just feels easier to eat instead of telling someone they’re hurting. Alternatively, perhaps an individual rigorously controls their eating since they feel like they don’t have control over anything else. Instead of expressing their feelings, they bury them.
With the assistance of a skilled therapist, each client learns that it’s counterproductive to ignore their problems and suppress their emotions. They learn self-compassion instead of always judging themselves harshly.