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Values Clarification and Committed Actions in ACT for PTSD

By Sonja Batten, Ph.D.

This video is part of our upcoming online course about ACT for PTSD.

Highlights

  • Committed action refers to making and keeping commitments to valued behaviors.
  • This work is guided by the client’s chosen values and requires skills from all of the core processes of ACT.

 

Transcript

In this module, we’re going to talk again about values, but mostly in the context of committed action.

What is committed action exactly? You might be wondering what I mean by that term in this context. Well, in short, within ACT, committed action is engaging in behavior that is guided by personal values, even in the presence of unwanted thoughts or feelings or external hindrances that can impede such behaviors. Committed action is both a process and an outcome.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

And although it’s something that’s important in most any theoretical orientation, as ACT is at its core a behavioral treatment, the behaviors of committed action are truly at the core of change in ACT.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Once the ACT therapist has introduced those things we’ve already talked about—willingness, defusion, contact with the present, self-as-context, and values—the main work of therapy is focused on working with clients as they’re making, breaking, and ultimately keeping commitments that lead to larger and larger patterns of committed actions in the service of those values.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

But following through with commitments is easier said than done, both for us and for our clients. Think about an area that you’ve been struggling with and wanting to change for some time. For many people, there may be a commitment related to fitness or health that falls in this category. You know what it is that you need to do to change. It’s not a knowledge deficit, but you get stuck on actually following through on the commitments that you repeatedly set.

Other times, people may want their lives to be different but don’t know exactly how, so they take no action. Or often, people may think they have to feel better before taking effective action and they end up waiting a long time.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

In the case of trauma survivors, there may be other barriers either related to trauma triggers or related to taking responsibility for change that might appear to let the perpetrator of the trauma off the hook.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

So after working through the primary ACT processes and further clarifying the client’s values, the majority of the work of ACT will focus on moving actively in the direction of those values by increasing psychological flexibility using the skills targeted in each of the other processes in ACT.

For example, avoidance and fusion are frequent barriers to moving forward on commitments in valued directions. And thus, defusion and willingness are essential skills to breaking through these barriers.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Similarly, future-oriented commitments are best approached using present moment awareness with a consistent self-perspective that is not defined or challenged by thoughts, feelings, and other reactions that are likely to arise as committed actions are targeted.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

All of these skills facilitate the psychological flexibility required for effective committed action.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

So, some key points. Within ACT, the term committed action refers to making and keeping commitments to valued behaviors, even in the presence of obstacles.

This work is guided by the client’s individually chosen values and requires skills from all of the core processes of ACT in order to be able to make progress in life through the activation of psychological flexibility.

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