You’re Not Broken: ACT for Eating Disorders

Here’s why I love using ACT.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (called ACT – and pronounced as it reads!) gets its name from its central message: learn how to accept thoughts and feelings that are out of your control and commit to action that will improve your life. We find this type of therapy to be especially helpful with clients who seem to have gotten stuck in making progress with their eating disorder.

I’ll be blogging about ACT in the coming weeks but wanted to start by sharing a few of my favorite things about it.

1. You’re not broken!

ACT doesn’t look at behaviors, thoughts, or feelings as wrong, bad, dysfunctional or maladaptive.  And you don’t need to be “changed.”  The treatment is about transforming your relationship with your thoughts or feelings so that they don’t rule you.  And instead of assuming we need to change a behavior, we consider if it’s working or not working … and if it’s getting you what you really want from your life.

2. It uses metaphors that make it easy to grasp.

Through the frequent use of metaphors in ACT, we accomplish more than we ever could in lengthy explanations.  Metaphors make abstract ideas accessible.  An example of one that stuck for me: when my mind “chatter” starts to get the best of me, I think of the chatter as a radio playing in the background.  That image helps me get distance from the thoughts and re-focus on other things.

3. It is tied to values.

ACT helps us to connect with our values; our deepest wishes for how we want to interact with others, the world around us and ourselves.  Values give us direction and can shape our behavior so that we act in ways that will get us where we ultimately want to be.  When guided by values, we inherently make choices and take actions that build self-esteem. 

4. With ACT, we learn through doing.

In ACT, we try things out and then we talk about them, rather than the other way around.  This keeps us working in a way that is both practical (what’s more practical than practicing useful skills?) and productive.

5. It is grounded in research.

ACT is a well-studied treatment and is clinically proven to be successful for a wide range of psychological issues.

The more I blog about it, the more you’ll understand why I love ACT for eating disorders!