Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Workplace
The environment and circumstances that surround people influence them to a great extent. So, they suffer from mental health ailments like anxiety, depression, stress, and so on. Western psychology is now looking at Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as an effective solution. ACT will help people deal with the way they react to their circumstances.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Meaning
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is a psychological intervention or behavioral therapy. ACT encourages mindfulness and self-acceptance in individuals. It also develops psychological flexibility and initiates behavioral change.
ACT enables people to understand that circumstances might be inevitable. But, they can avoid suffering those circumstances with a positive approach. Thus, ACT helps the person understand that sufferings are a part of life. But instead of blaming the situation, they can use different methods to deal with it in a positive way.
With the global pandemic, we saw a drastic transformation in workplaces worldwide. Anxiety in employees is increasing as they are struggling to cope with the massive shift in their lives.
But, with time, the conversations about mental health are changing. Employers also realize that it is high time to focus on their employees' mental health. This is an important step forward to create a healthy and inviting workspace.
The use of ACT in the workplace will encourage a healthy work environment. It will benefit the employees' mental well-being. Moreover, it would also help build quality human resources that give quality output.
The Six Core Processes of ACT
The six core processes of ACT guide people through therapy. They provide a framework for developing psychological flexibility. These six core processes include:
Acceptance is about accepting our negative emotions instead of escaping them. It is a way of acknowledging that challenging situations are an inevitable part of life. The practice of mindfulness in ACT enables us to detach from stressful emotions. They can then accept the situation as it is.
2. Cognitive Defusion
It refers to the method of an individual changing how they react to any problem. Cognitive defusion allows people to face their negative emotions.
For instance, your superior has given you a task. The task stresses you out because you already have a terrible experience of failing in it. So a similar job made you recall a negative experience. So, you are afraid that you will mess it up again.
Here, cognitive defusion enables you to recall your experience with a positive attitude. You gather your courage, sit back, and begin your work. Seeing the experience in a positive light will help you recall the mistakes you made in the past. You can then avoid making the same, thereby leading you closer to success.
3. Being Present
Being present refers to being and thinking about doing things at the present moment. This is contrary to the usual lamenting past mistakes or fearing future consequences.
4. Self as Context
It is the notion that individuals are not only the sum of their experiences, thoughts, or emotions. But there is also a self outside of their present experiences.
Values are the qualities we choose to work towards in a given moment. We hold a particular set of values close to us. This might either be an intentional or unintentional decision. ACT uses tools that allow us to work following the values that we hold dear.
6. Committed Action
ACT enables an individual to remain committed to their efforts. These efforts help in their long-term goals and are consistent with their values.
Benefits of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
ACT helps to focus on and enrich people's lives, regardless of their chronic anxiety.
ACT makes people see that they are more than their negative experiences. Mindfulness helps them lead a fulfilling life in line with their principle values. This realization itself is powerful, which leads to the reduction of anxiety.
ACT helps in developing psychological flexibility. Here, psychological flexibility means understanding a situation and choosing an action. People will base these actions on one's core value-driven goals. They would not let emotions and feelings drive their actions.
The six core processes of ACT are instrumental as behavior-changing strategies. These processes make people more flexible in the way they approach problems in life. People cannot always control unwanted thoughts and emotions. But they can always influence their minds to deal with such undesirable thoughts in a better way.
ACT acknowledges negative experiences as a part of life. ACT therapists encourage their patients to accept that they can't always change what happens to them. It is also not still healthy to brush off negative experiences. They should instead consider these bad experiences a good part of human existence. ACT encourages people to accept disturbing thoughts and unwanted situations as experiences that lead to positive changes in their lives.
But, it doesn't mean that one should hold a utopian optimism towards the problem rather than change it. ACT makes people deal with issues in a way that motivates them to improve their lives.
Using ACT in the Workplace
The employer must be sympathetic while dealing with his employees' mental health. To achieve such a quality work environment, you can take up the following measures:
- Have a corporate wellness program in place. Give employees access to ACT via these programs. Let them connect to health professionals and therapists. Once they learn the six core processes, they will deal with stressful situations in a better way.
- Be approachable and patient with employees. Make yourselves aware of the cognitive-behavioral approach. Speak to your employees about their mental health within a strict ethical framework.
Be interactive with your employees. Offer them practical strategies to boost their emotional stability and enhance their personality. This will enable them to yield a long-term positive result.
Organize specific cognitive-behavioral therapies and mindful activities like meditation in the workplace. Create a supportive community in the workplace that your employees can reach out to. For remote employees, access to online counseling and therapy is beneficial.
Make conscious efforts to exercise the core pillars of ACT yourself. These are- acceptance, choice, commitment, and taking action.
Instead of pressurizing an employee to meet their deadline, encourage them to work at a steady pace. Do not be too authoritative. Encourage them to make creative decisions in their work. This way, they will be much more engaged in their work.
Western psychologists see ACT as a solution for the long run.
Contrary to CBT, ACT doesn't attempt to change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings. Instead, it encourages people to develop a human relationship with those experiences. This approach enables people to take actions consistent with their values.
Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in your workplace will bring a much-needed boost to your employees' mental health. This is especially true now, as the pandemic has increased employees' anxieties manifold.
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