Exploring Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Part 2: What are Pivots?

In a previous post, I talked about an approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). In particular, we centered on the concept of psychological flexibility. This time around, the focus will lie squarely on “pivots.”

In a classical sense, a pivot is both a noun and a verb. It is a word used to define the primary point on which a mechanism turns. As a verb, it describes someone — literally or figuratively — turning, as if standing on a pivot. In psychology, specifically ACT, the meaning of “pivot” refers to the process of taking things to a new place.

Refresher Course: What is ACT?

The three tenets of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are:

  1. Accept and be mindful of an emotion
  2. Choose the direction you wish to take
  3. Take action to get you moving in that direction

For example, let’s say you find yourself with a strong urge to watch internet pornography. ACT can help you push past denial and excuses to accept this urge. You will learn to mindfully witness the feeling without judgment as you commit to a new choice.

Now, What About Those Pivots?

The example given above could also be viewed as a pivot. Such an ACT pivot may appear “sudden” to outsiders. But to you and your therapist, it is more accurately viewed as a preplanned course correction.

ACT encourages you to practice acceptance and mindfulness. This teaches you to become an “observing self” in the present moment. In this state, you can begin the challenging process of aligning your actions with your values.

This is the pivot moment. Again, it can appear like an overnight change but it deserves more credit than that. You deserve more credit than that. At the moment of an ACT pivot, you are acting on the hard work you’ve already done. Once you’ve done the following, the time to pivot is upon you:

  • Owning up to any obsession, issue, or dysfunction.
  • Choosing a new direction following contemplation and help from your therapist.
  • Prioritizing the present reality over past guilt or future anxiety despite the challenges.
  • Cultivating the psychological flexibility you need to deal with life’s twists and turns as an ongoing process.

How to Make a Values-Based Pivot

  1. Recognize the area or areas in your life in which you desire change
  2. Identify the values that dovetail with the type of change you seek
  3. Set goals that are guided by those values
  4. Remain mindful and diligent that your goals feel meaningful
  5. Choose to remain flexible in terms of adaptations as the process progresses
  6. Use your wisdom to periodically re-evaluate your goals — making sure they are not either unrealistic or too easy

As you pivot into committed action, it is crucial to set up a few time frames to help you maintain focus and drive, e.g.

  • You may wish to start yourself off with an immediate goal — something you can accomplish in 24 hours or less — to create positive momentum.
  • Short- and/or medium-range goals have time-frames ranging from a few days to a couple of months.
  • Your long-term goals are designed to sustain the pivot and create lasting personal change (and flexibility).

It’s Time to Begin Accepting, Committing and Healing

You may believe it’s easier to hide your problems than risk embarrassment when you discuss them. A therapy setting is designed to be a safe space. You can openly share whatever is on your mind. If commitment feels like a concern, keep in mind that ACT usually takes place in a limited number of sessions. Please contact me today to schedule a free half-hour initial session.

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