Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs Acceptance Commitment Therapy for Anxiety

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In the intricate landscape of mental health, therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) have emerged as powerful tools for managing anxiety. 

As we navigate through the complexities of our minds, these therapies offer unique approaches to understanding and dealing with our thoughts and emotions. 

Each offers a different perspective, and a different path towards wellbeing. But how do we choose between them? How do we determine which therapy is better suited to our individual needs? 

This exploration delves into the principles and techniques of CBT and ACT, comparing their similarities and differences to help you make an informed decision about your journey toward mental health recovery. 


Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Amber Chambless, LPC

Amber Chambless, LPC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Marie Whatley LPCC

Marie Whatley LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Meghan Purcell, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Katherine (Kate) Taylor, MBA, MA, LPC

Katherine (Kate) Taylor, MBA, MA, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Cheyenne Ainsworth, LSW

Cheyenne Ainsworth, LSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Derek Bonds, LPC

Derek Bonds, LPC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Laura Hunt, LPC

Laura Hunt, LPC

Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Michele Stahle, LPC

Michele Stahle, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Margot Bean, LCSW

Margot Bean, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jacquelynne Sils, LPCC

Jacquelynne Sils, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Susan Taylor, LPCC

Susan Taylor, LPCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Katherine Miller, LPCC

Katherine Miller, LPCC

Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Michele Ames-Hodges, PsyD, LPC

Michele Ames-Hodges, PsyD, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Joseph Anders, LPCC

Joseph Anders, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518


Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Often shortened to CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aids patients in comprehending how their thoughts and emotions shape their actions. 

CBT is frequently employed to address a broad spectrum of conditions, encompassing fears, substance dependency, depression, and anxiety. 

CBT is generally short-term and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. 

Throughout the treatment process, individuals acquire skills to recognize and modify harmful or distressing thought processes that adversely impact their behavior and emotional state.

When it comes to treating anxiety, CBT operates on the premise that your thoughts, not external events, are the underlying cause of your anxiety. 

The goal is to change thought patterns that lead to fear and anxiety and to replace them with a sense of calm and confidence.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders aims to help the person to identify and challenge their negative and unhelpful thoughts (cognitive distortions), and to learn coping skills and techniques to reduce anxiety symptoms.

It also helps individuals confront their fears rather than avoid them, which often happens in anxiety disorders.



Understanding Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life.

ACT has been around for a long time, but it's become more popular in recent years, amid the rise of mindfulness meditation. 

This therapy promotes the acceptance of one's thoughts and emotions, instead of resisting them or experiencing guilt over them. 

It may seem confusing at first, but ACT combines methods of acceptance and mindfulness, which involve being present in the moment and experiencing things without judgment, with commitment and strategies for changing behavior, all designed to enhance mental adaptability.

When dealing with anxiety, ACT works by helping individuals recognize and accept their anxiety rather than trying to suppress or control it.

It aims to change the relationship individuals have with their thoughts and feelings, rather than trying to change the thoughts and feelings themselves.

By learning to observe and accept anxious feelings, individuals can stop struggling against their anxiety and start focusing on actions that align with their values. 

This approach can help reduce the impact of anxiety on one's life, allowing them to focus more on their values and less on their fears. 



Comparing CBT and ACT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) may seem similar at first glance, as they both fall under the umbrella of cognitive therapies. 

However, their principles and techniques offer distinctive perspectives on mental health. CBT emphasizes the identification and transformation of detrimental cognitive distortions and behaviors.

It aims to enhance emotional control and foster the creation of personal coping mechanisms that concentrate on resolving existing issues. 

It's like a detective's work, examining evidence to challenge the accuracy of negative thinking. 

On the other hand, ACT is more about accepting thoughts and feelings as they are, rather than trying to change them. 

It encourages mindfulness and acceptance strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies to build mental flexibility.

While both therapies aim to improve mental well-being, their approach to achieving this goal differs significantly. 

CBT operates on the belief that changing negative thought patterns can alter emotions and behaviors, helping individuals manage and reduce symptoms of anxiety. 

In contrast, ACT doesn't seek to reduce symptoms. Instead, it teaches individuals to accept their thoughts and feelings, particularly those associated with anxiety, and to commit to actions that improve and enrich their lives. 

The fundamental difference lies in the relationship between the individual and their thoughts: CBT seeks to change the content of thoughts, while ACT changes the relationship to thoughts, promoting acceptance and mindfulness. 

Despite their differences, both are effective in managing and treating anxiety disorders, highlighting the importance of personalizing therapy to suit individual needs and circumstances. 


Choosing Between CBT and ACT

When deciding between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) for treating anxiety, here are several factors to consider:

Your personal beliefs and mindset: If you believe that changing your thought patterns can help manage your anxiety, then CBT might be a good fit. However, if you relate more to the idea of accepting your feelings and learning to live with them, then ACT might be a better choice.

Your previous experiences with therapy: If you've tried one type of therapy before and it didn't work well for you, it might be worth trying the other type.

The nature of your anxiety: Some types of anxiety might respond better to one type of therapy over the other. For instance, CBT is often recommended for panic disorder, while ACT can be particularly helpful for generalized anxiety disorder.

The therapist's expertise: It's important to find a therapist who is experienced in the type of therapy you choose. The skills and experience of the therapist can significantly affect the outcome of the therapy.

Your readiness for change: Both therapies require active participation and willingness to change. Assess your readiness to engage with the therapy process and make changes in your life.

Availability and accessibility: Check what is available in your local area or online. Some areas may have more practitioners trained in one type of therapy than the other.

Your preference: Ultimately, the best therapy is the one that resonates most with you. If you feel more comfortable and aligned with the principles and techniques of one therapy, it's likely to be more effective for you. 



Conclusion

In conclusion, both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) offer valuable strategies for managing anxiety.

Each therapy presents a unique approach: CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns to alter emotions and behaviors, while ACT works on accepting thoughts and feelings as they are, fostering mindfulness and commitment to actions that enrich life. 

Choosing between the two largely depends on individual preferences, beliefs, type of anxiety, and previous experiences with therapy.

No one-size-fits-all solution exists; the most effective therapy is the one that resonates with you and aligns with your needs.

Remember, seeking help is the first step towards managing anxiety, and both therapies provide different paths toward mental well-being. 


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February 29th, 2024

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