It is generally accepted that people who develop addictions also have developed habits of suppressing, or attempting to manage or control emotional experiences which creates other problems. In fact, their addiction may be a part of this desire to control emotions. It is not uncommon for cleints to state “ I use alcohol to numb my pain, or to change the way I feel”.

At Samarpan we use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in order to help teach our clients how to live and behave in a manner that will be consistent with their values and to also acquire a level of psychological flexibility. ACT is a “mindfulness” training tool that helps the individual to be more aware of their emotions and their instincts to control them; so that they are better able to process these emotions into more positive actions with healthier outcomes.

ACT does not recognize unwanted emotional experiences as symptoms or problems but to view them more positively as a normal part of the fullness and vitality of life; and that life includes a full spectrum of experience, sometimes including the discomfort or even pain that may accompany some situations. ACT, along with Mindfulness training, helps the individual to accept things as they come without evaluating them or attempting to change or control them. Once the individual learns to develop a new, compassionate relationship with these experiences and emotions they often feel a sense of release and relief at not needing to control them. The feeling can be quite liberating and they become more open and accepting.

Psychological flexibility is the primary goal of ACT, which can be achieved through a few core processes:

Among these is exploring past attempts at controlling or “solving” past experiences and recognizing the lack of success at these efforts, thereby creating the opportunity to act in a manner more consistent with what’s most important to the individual.

Accepting emotional experiences, allows an individual to learn to experience the range of human emotions with a more open and accepting perspective. More consciously choosing life directions by defining what is most important in life and clarifying how the individual wishes to live — then taking actions to engage in behaviours that will enable to move them into that chosen direction.

These processes are not sequential but, rather, experienced simultaneously as interconnected and overlapping. They are all introduced and developed in direct experiences that are identified by the individual in therapy over the course of their treatment. Ultimately when an individual attains the psychological flexibility allowing them to be present, aware, open and do what is in their best interests while truly experiencing life.

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