Colette de Marneffe, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Individual and Couple Psychotherapy

   
 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness & Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


Mindfulness

As you have probably noticed, interest in mindfulness has taken hold and is now used in many educational, personal growth, healthcare, business, and athletic settings. It has its roots in ancient Buddhist practice and teachings and is an integral part of many spiritual traditions. More and more, it has entered mainstream Western secular culture. So what is mindfulness? While many definitions are available, the essential components are: paying attention to what is happening, right now in the present moment, without judging the experience or trying to change it. This mindful stance is not our usual way of operating. Rather, we are conditioned to focus on the past and plan and anticipate the future, with a tendency to replay what has gone wrong and to focus on possible risk and danger. These tendencies have served survival but they do not help us see clearly or serve our well-being. Through practice, we can strengthen the ability to recognize our default thought patterns and attend to what is actually happening, both within and outside of ourselves. This enables us to become more interested and connected to our own lives in a way that is wise, intentional and caring. As a certified mindfulness meditation teacher, I will offer mindfulness teachings and practices as a complement to psychotherapy if this interests you.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which includes an emphasis on mindfulness, can be a very beneficial complement to traditional psychotherapy. Psychotherapy emphasizes self-awareness and emotional and behavioral change. In contrast, ACT expands the focus beyond reducing symptoms and solving problems, to developing a new stance toward life’s challenges so that they do not get in the way of finding fulfillment and meaning.

ACT can be especially useful when one is experiencing hardships that cannot be eliminated, such as medical illness, loss, or any life stress which one cannot prevent or control. Even in the face of difficulties we might inadvertently cause or make worse through our behaviors or thought patterns, learning to develop an accepting response toward our own struggles, and directing our energy toward meaningful action, can bring appreciable improvement in well-being.ACT has been widely studied and has been found to be effective for people suffering from a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction, and more. 

ACT can be divided into two parts, as its name indicates:

Acceptance: As humans, we tend to believe that our thoughts are accurate and that our feelings follow naturally from our experiences and circumstances. However, this is often not the case, as our responses are strongly influenced by our personal perspective. The more we cling to our thoughts and feelings and try to control or solve them, the more they can color our experience. Through a variety of mindfulness approaches, we can learn to recognize our thoughts and feelings as products of our mind, rather than as “truth.” This shift allows painful thoughts and feelings to recede more quickly and makes space for other experiences.

Commitment: This component of ACT includes clarifying one’s most important values and dedicating oneself to choices and actions that express these values. When focused excessively on problems, we may believe that we must solve the difficulties before we can find more life satisfaction. While solving problems is an important and valuable goal of therapy, ACT emphasizes the importance of engaging in fulfilling activities that bring meaning and purpose, even while problems persist.

ACT can be a beneficial and powerful complement to other psychotherapeutic techniques. Through an integration of approaches, we can address and ameliorate the difficulties that bring you to therapy, while also increasing wellbeing through greater self-acceptance and commitment to values and meaningful action.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Colette de Marneffe, Ph.D. • ph: 301-891-2120 • e-mail: drcdemarneffe@gmail.com