Gambling Disorders 360°

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NCRG Pre-Conference Workshop: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

by: NCRG Staff | Oct 1, 2012

Before the official start of the 13th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, Mark Dixon, Ph.D., professor and coordinator for the Behavior Analysis and Therapy Program at Southern Illinois University, and Alyssa Wilson, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work at Saint Louis University, led a two-hour preconference workshop that focused on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

ACT is a unique evidenced-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies together with commitment and behavior change strategies to increase psychological flexibility.  It is considered a second generation cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) model and is based on behavioral principles on the nature of language and cognition. 

Dr. Dixon noted that there is a growing body of literature on the effectiveness of ACT, adding that these studies have shown it is more effective than CBT.  ACT is an alternate to CBT that focuses on acceptance of thoughts rather than suppression of thoughts. 

ACT uses mind and body interventions to help change behavior patterns.  The goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility by changing how we relate to thoughts and feelings rather than change their content.  To do this, ACT focuses on six principles:

  • Contact with the Present Moment: Contact and awareness of the here and now, where the client is in their own thoughts and feelings
  • Acceptance: Willingness to accept everything good, bad and uncomfortable about the situation
  • Diffusion: De-literalizing language (learning to not tie words with emotions)
  • Self as Context: Separating yourself from  your thoughts; words do not define a person (i.e. the label “pathological gambler” does not define who you are as a person, but you are a mom/dad, brother/sister, etc.)
  • Values: The goals we set for ourselves and what is most important to each person, along with the understanding that values are different for each indiividual
  • Committed Actions: Focusing on value-based behaviors

During the second half of the workshop, Dr. Wilson showed attendees how they can apply ACT with their patients. She led attendees through several exercises they can use to help their patients realize that pathological gambling does not define them as a person and learn how to make decisions based on their values.

For more information about the 13th Annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, please visit the NCRG website, and stay tuned to this blog for updates.      

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