Why ACT is Effective Treatment for Depression

The word “depression” has become an umbrella term for the full gamut of depressive disorders — major depressive, bipolar, seasonal affective, and more. Such conditions have become increasingly common. As a result, there are many potential treatment options available. Choosing the treatment that is most effective for you requires some background information.

Depression vs. Sadness

We all feel sadness at times. Life presents challenges and it’s only normal to experience down periods. If these periods persist, you might want to ask yourself some questions, e.g.

  • Do you feel depressed all day?
  • Do you feel there is no hope?
  • Is your depression impacting your ability to work or to be in a relationship?
  • Are your depressive feelings are impacting your ability to enjoy your life and to function at work, at school, or in your relationships
  • Do you have problems sleeping, difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, overeating or lack an appetite, lacking enjoyment in life activities and having feelings of hopelessness?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you may wish to look into treatment for depression. But which one?

Consider Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT was developed in the 1980s but recent studies have brought this therapeutic approach to the forefront. Simply put, ACT is a variation of a better-known approach called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). There is one major difference between the two:

  • Traditional CBT involves a therapist guiding a patient to address negative or irrational thoughts by challenging and/or changing them.
  • With ACT, on the other hand, your counselor will encourage you to use mindfulness to be more accepting of your negative or irrational thoughts.

To better understand the ACT approach, it can be helpful to compare it to meditation. When we meditate, we are urged to take note of our thoughts without reacting to them. In ACT, this is called “defusion.” This term helps define the difference between thinking:

“I am too overwhelmed and sad to reach my goal” and “I’m having a thought about being overwhelmed and sad.”

ACT for Depression

ACT is effective as a depression treatment partly because it helps the person reinvent their relationship with the pain and suffering. Quite often, people aim to control or even squash feelings that make them sad or angry. They conjure up short-term coping mechanisms (substance abuse, disordered eating, social isolation, etc.) that end up only causing more pain and suffering.

ACT encourages us to release the struggling. Instead, that energy can be aimed at activities that enrich our lives and adhere to our values. Our instincts may push us to fight or avoid painful emotions or situations. ACT teaches us to aim for acceptance. We learn that ups and downs are normal and inevitable. We also learn that we are not defined by what happens to us.

This is where the “commitment” part comes into play. Once we have opted to not struggle against our depression, we can commit to positive behavior changes. We are encouraged to identify our values and then use them to guide us when choosing actions.

Talk to a Therapist

Keep in mind that many people may not think they have depression until they begin discussing the problems they face in depth. There is no shame in seeking help to make your life brighter and happier. Counseling offers you effective treatment plans — like ACT — that will help you find the right coping skills to enhance your well-being. Life should not have to be scary, and through depression treatment, you can find the true relief you need. If you feel your sadness has transitioned into a depressive disorder, it is time to ACT!

Finally, if you have additional questions find more answers regarding depression treatment here. Please contact me soon for a consultation.