Month: December 2016

ACT vs. CBT What is the Difference?

For those more savvy, self-help accepting, curious potential psychotherapy clients out there, I’ve created a brief description of the differences of two of the more common types of therapy being used by clinicians these days. I don’t expect most people to know the differences between therapeutic techniques, but surprisingly, I’m finding more and more people are knowledgeable about this stuff and are genuinely interested in how this works. This is a good thing as you should know what kind of evidenced-based treatment your therapist is providing to you anyway! Below I have included a general explanation of both CBT and ACT and how they are both similar and different in treating something like depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psychosocial intervention that is the most widely used evidenced based practice for treating mental disorders. CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs and attitudes). The underlying concept behind CBT is that our thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role in our behavior.

CBT is generally short-term and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior. Many people begin to identify “core beliefs” that have dictated their emotions and behaviors for years. CBT teaches individuals to notice thoughts that are contributing to their suffering. i.e. “I will always be lazy and I will always be depressed”.

Example of CBT works:  An individual  reports that he/she is “hopeless that things will get better”. CBT would help the individual  identify the thought distortion and help them discover thoughts that are realistic and effective in helping them feel better. i.e  “I do not always feel depressed. There are times when I enjoy my life”.  Noticing and shifting one’s thinking affects one’s emotions which affects one’s behavior.

Further explanation from above example: When the individual  applies a more optimistic (and realistic) thought, their emotion changes (more hopeful) and their behavior changes (get out of bed and takes a walk).

The goal of cognitive behavior therapy is to teach patients that while they cannot control every aspect of the world around them, they can take control of how they interpret and deal with things in their environment.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, pronounced “act”)

ACT is a form of psychotherapy commonly described as a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It is an empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance, mindfulness strategies, commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.

ACT differs from CBT in that rather than trying to teach people how to better control their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories and other private events, ACT teaches them to just notice, accept and embrace their private events.

ACT is a powerful tool that can reduce suffering by helping one observe thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to change them. ACT also emphasizes behaving in ways consistent with valued goals and life direction.

Example of how ACT works: One would develop acceptance around depression and learn how to develop a relationship with it rather than avoid it (what ACT refers to “experiential avoidance”).  The basic premise of ACT with depression is that while emotional pain hurts, it is the struggle with pain that causes suffering.

ACT is proven to be effective in treating not only depression but also addiction and anxiety. ACT doesn’t attempt to improve or alleviate symptoms, but rather aims to help the person stop obsessing over his or her symptoms, create new lifestyle patterns, and make healthier choices. It encourages being fully conscious in the present moment and maintaining or changing behavior based on what the moment involves.


Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.

Families and Addiction

 

Help for Families and Individuals of Those Struggling with Addiction

I’m going to share a snippet of something I wrote for my website before I decided to change my website completely (it’s a long story). I have worked in addiction treatment for quite some time and have had the opportunity to speak with many worried mothers, wives, husbands, fathers, children you name it. They are undoubtedly panicked, terrified and sometimes pretty clueless about what it is they are supposed to do-and rightfully so. Unfortunately, there is no detailed manuscript for what to do with an addicted loved one, but there is PLENTY of useful material for families, family education programs, support groups and therapists out there that can help get you through such difficult times.

Every time I speak with families I have to remind myself of the pain and fear they are experiencing as a result of the unknown, sometimes fatal disease of addiction. I admit, it can be frustrating when you don’t have all the answers and you can’t explain why their loved one just won’t be “cured”. Parents, especially, can not understand what the hell is going through their kids minds. Why is their desire to get sober not as urgent as everyone else in their life believes it is?!!  Unfortunately, this is not how it works.

As a therapist who has struggled with addiction myself, I know how badly your family wants to see you get better. And I so wish that was all it took. I remember my sponsor 10 years ago telling me “you’re mom would take a bullet for you if it meant you’d get better”. That was one of the harder things to hear, but it was true.

Steps to Take for Yourself

I can tell you now, as a successful, happy and sober therapist, sobriety for your loved one can happen, but most of it, a lot of it actually, is in their hands. Most recovering individuals will tell you that looking back, it was their most excruciating feelings and experiences that made them finally willing to seek help and most importantly want sobriety.  So what do you do in the meantime?

Well first of all I want to make it very clear that you can wholeheartedly love your child and hate their addiction at the same time. They are two very different things. Some addicted individuals need super tough tough love-you know no money, no car, no place to come home and do laundry. Others need a different kind of support. Where are they in their recovery process? Do they want to get sober? Are they just kind of struggling? Will they need inpatient? A therapist can help you navigate your way through some of these unknown and presumably obsessive questions that you’ve had running through your mind over and over again.

Self Care

I can not stress enough how it important it is to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF through this process. You will be in a much better position to make rational decisions and will in turn feel good about not neglecting your own needs. You see, when you neglect your own life, AKA are codependent and or an enabler, you are helping no one. So, take a look at the information I provided below and see if it may be beneficial for you to seek some guidance. Anything helps!

Here we go-

It may be time to seek help when:

You feel ashamed of talking about the addiction and and don’t know who to talk to

You’re scared of the substance user finding out and acting out

Your family member continues to use despite your concerns

You’ve experienced family issues that you believe may have contributed to the addiction

Your physical, mental and spiritual health have been compromised

The effects of addiction aren’t limited to the substance abuser. If someone’s addiction has negatively impacted your life, it may be time to seek help. By engaging in treatment focused on the family, you can make a difference in the life of the addict while improving your own well-being. Studies show that family therapy predicts higher levels of success, greater engagement and increased continuing care participation.

Benefits of family therapy include:

Helping addict seek assistance for their own problem

Helping families understand enabling behaviors vs. supportive behaviors

Increased sense of personal serenity

Addressing codependent behavior that may be hindering recovery

Learning how to practice self care when feeling powerless over actions of addict

Assisting the substance abuser to gain awareness of their own needs and behaviors

Supporting yourself and your loved ones through the recovery process

It’s important to understand that therapy can provide support for family members but also improve their loved one’s health as well. Recovery for everyone is possible. I’ve seen it happen many times. It may not work the first time, but the possibility of being free from the storm of addiction can happen. It can difficult to ask for help, but it definitely can’t hurt.


Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.