Anxiety, when it descends upon us, is all encompassing. Anxiety activates our threat-detection system and involves attention, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Our thoughts can become extremely negative and provoke even more fear and dread when we’re anxious.
We’ve all been guilty of it. A client comes in with a problem and the solution is right in front of them and all they have to do is reach out and open their eyes; all we have to do is lean forward and whisper a solution or create a perfectly plotted plan to solve this riddle. And just like that, we are wrapped into their solution focused story where we are the problem-solvers, they are the lost and confused, and together we are weaving a narrative that captivates while it draws us away from our process, focused work.
The normal wave pattern of emotions get interrupted and extended by three maladaptive coping strategies. The first is emotion avoidance. It’s important to realize how the attempt to control and avoid emotions paradoxically maintains, even intensifies, emotional distress.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) maximizes the change mechanisms of groups. When done well, ACT magnifies therapeutic change mechanisms inherent in group therapy. Developed as the clinical response to an increased understanding of the origins of human suffering, the model articulates the processes that can keep humans stuck, and how those same processes can be used to alleviate suffering. This directly translates to the therapy room.
Relational frame theory (RFT) posits that human actions never take place in a vacuum. There is always something preceding and something following each action. It is among these contextual factors—those that precede and those that follow—that the behavioral analyst looks for answers to questions about what governs behavior.
The main questions for behavior analysis are which factors, in a given historical situation, influence what someone does, and how these factors can be changed in order to affect behavior. The relationship between a specific act and the context in which it occurs is the point of interest.
Acceptance and commitment therapy is based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT). The basic premise of RFT is that human behavior is governed largely through networks of mutual relations called relational frames. These relations form the core of human language and cognition, and allow us to learn without requiring direct experience. For example, a cat won’t touch a hot stove twice, but it needs to touch it at least once to get the hint.