Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) encompasses a range of conditions where individuals struggle to regulate their consumption of legal or illegal substances, leading to significant impairment in various aspects of their lives.

Initially, individuals may turn to substances out of curiosity, seeking pleasure, or attempting to alleviate stress. However, continued and recurrent substance use can result in detrimental consequences, affecting their work or academic performance and straining interpersonal relationships.

Despite experiencing these negative outcomes, individuals with SUD often find themselves unable to cease substance use, highlighting the complex nature of addiction and its grip on the brain’s functioning.

Addiction, also known as Substance Use Disorder, is characterized by profound changes in the brain’s structure and function due to prolonged substance misuse. These alterations in neural pathways can significantly influence an individual’s thoughts, behaviors, and decision-making processes.

Consequently, individuals with SUD may experience intense drug cravings, impaired judgment, shifts in personality, and other cognitive and behavioral disturbances. These changes underscore the chronic and relapsing nature of addiction, highlighting the importance of comprehensive treatment approaches to address its multifaceted impacts.

Fortunately, advancements in addiction treatment have led to the development of effective interventions, combining medication and psychotherapy to support individuals on their path to recovery.

Among these therapeutic approaches is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which has garnered increasing recognition in recent years for its efficacy in treating SUDs.

ACT empowers individuals to confront their symptoms by equipping them with the skills to acknowledge and accept their condition while simultaneously fostering behavioral change and commitment to long-term recovery.

At AToN Center, our luxury treatment center team is dedicated to providing a holistic and supportive environment conducive to healing and transformation.

Our multidisciplinary team utilizes a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), to address the complexities of substance use disorders to facilitate sustainable recovery for our patients.

Through personalized care, compassionate support, and comprehensive interventions, we strive to empower individuals to overcome addiction and reclaim their lives.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that aims to help individuals develop psychological flexibility by fostering acceptance of their thoughts and emotions, while also encouraging committed action towards their values and goals.

Central to ACT is the concept of mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment without judgment and fully engaging in one’s experiences. As a form of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, ACT utilizes various mindfulness techniques such as mindfulness exercises, cognitive defusion, values clarification, and committed action to promote psychological flexibility and enhance overall well-being.

Relational Frame Theory (RFT) is a behavioral theory that underpins the principles and techniques of ACT. RFT proposes that human language and cognition are inherently relational, meaning that individuals derive meaning from their experiences through the context of their relationships with other stimuli.

In other words, RFT suggests that how we perceive and respond to events is influenced by the relationships we form between different stimuli, thoughts, and emotions. In clinical psychology, ACT integrates the principles of RFT by helping individuals recognize and modify the relational frames or cognitive patterns that contribute to psychological distress and maladaptive behavior.

When applied to substance use disorder (SUD), ACT offers a unique and effective approach to addressing the complex challenges associated with addiction.

ACT helps individuals with SUD develop greater awareness and acceptance of their cravings, urges, and emotional triggers, without necessarily acting on them. By practicing mindfulness skills and learning to observe their thoughts and feelings nonjudgmentally, individuals can reduce their reactivity to substance-related cues and gain greater control over their behavior.

Additionally, ACT assists individuals in clarifying their values and committing to meaningful actions that align with their long-term goals and aspirations, thereby promoting sustained recovery and overall well-being.

Overall, ACT provides individuals with practical tools and strategies to navigate the challenges of addiction while fostering resilience, self-awareness, and personal growth.

Psychological Flexibility

Psychological flexibility, as defined within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), refers to an individual’s ability to adaptively respond to the ever-changing demands and challenges of life while staying true to their values and goals. It involves the capacity to be present in the moment, fully experiencing thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment or avoidance.

Psychological flexibility encompasses several key components, including acceptance, mindfulness, cognitive defusion, value clarification, and committed action.

Acceptance involves acknowledging and allowing one’s thoughts and emotions to arise without attempting to suppress or control them. Rather than engaging in futile attempts to avoid or eliminate uncomfortable experiences, individuals learn to make space for their internal experiences and cultivate a sense of openness and willingness to experience them.

Mindfulness plays a crucial role in psychological flexibility by promoting present-moment awareness and nonjudgmental observation of one’s thoughts and feelings. By cultivating mindfulness skills, individuals develop greater clarity and insight into their inner experiences, allowing them to respond to life’s challenges with greater resilience and equanimity.

Overall, psychological flexibility empowers individuals to live in alignment with their values, make meaningful choices, and pursue a rich and meaningful life, even in the face of adversity.


In ACT, therapy is effective for a variety of mental health conditions, including the following:


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in San Diego | AToN Center

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) provides a robust framework for managing anxiety disorders by emphasizing acceptance of uncomfortable feelings rather than avoidance.

It teaches individuals to recognize their anxious thoughts without becoming entangled, enabling them to engage in life more fully despite their anxiety.

Through mindfulness techniques, ACT encourages patients to live in the present moment and align their actions with their values, reducing the power anxiety disorders have over their lives.


In treating depression, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps individuals to detach from negative thought patterns and develop a more compassionate relationship with themselves.

By focusing on values and committed action, patients are encouraged to take steps towards meaningful life goals, even when experiencing depressive symptoms.

ACT’s emphasis on acceptance and mindfulness aids in breaking the cycle of rumination and despair characteristic of depression, offering a path toward a more engaged and fulfilling life.

Stress-related to work

stress Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in San Diego | AToN Center

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is particularly effective in addressing work-related stress by helping individuals to clarify their personal values and take action in alignment with those values.

It teaches coping strategies for managing stressors and encourages a healthy balance between work and personal life.

Through mindfulness, individuals learn to remain present and engaged, reducing the overwhelming impact of work stress on their overall well-being.

Terminal illness

For those facing terminal illness, ACT offers a way to handle the complex emotions and challenges that come with such a diagnosis.

It promotes acceptance of the present reality and fosters a focus on what is truly important, allowing individuals to live their remaining time in a manner consistent with their values.

ACT helps patients and their families navigate the negative thoughts and emotional landscape of terminal illness, emphasizing meaningful engagement and quality of life.

Chronic pain

ACT approaches chronic pain with strategies aimed at enhancing life quality beyond the physical sensations.

It encourages patients to accept their pain without allowing it to dominate their existence, focusing on activities that are fulfilling and possible despite discomfort.

This shift away from pain avoidance towards value-driven actions can significantly improve the psychological resilience and overall life satisfaction of those living with chronic pain.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be profoundly addressed through ACT by helping survivors to accept their experiences and the emotions that arise, without being controlled by them.

It fosters an environment where individuals can observe their thoughts and feelings from a distance, reducing their impact.

ACT strengthens the ability to engage with the present, facilitating healing and reducing the hold traumatic memories have on the individual.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in San Diego | AToN Center

ACT aids in the treatment of anorexia by addressing the rigid thought patterns and behaviors characteristic of the disorder.

It promotes psychological flexibility, encouraging patients to identify their values and pursue life goals beyond their eating disorder.

Through acceptance and mindfulness, individuals learn to tolerate uncomfortable feelings about food and body image, leading to healthier behaviors and attitudes towards eating.


For individuals with schizophrenia, ACT provides tools for managing the distress associated with symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

It teaches acceptance of these experiences without unnecessary struggle, aiming to reduce their impact on daily life.

By focusing on values and committed action, patients are empowered to pursue goals and engage in life more fully, despite the challenges posed by schizophrenia.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is particularly effective in treating SUDs by fostering acceptance of cravings and difficult emotions without succumbing to substance use.

It encourages mindfulness and psychological flexibility, enabling individuals to pursue meaningful activities that align with their recovery goals.

Through ACT, patients develop resilience against relapse, focusing on long-term well-being and fulfillment beyond substance dependence.

How Does ACT Work?

Psychological flexibility, which enables individuals to adaptively navigate their thoughts and responses, is cultivated through six foundational ACT principles.

Patients undergoing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) often experience the development of psychological flexibility as they engage with these principles.

The six ACT principles are as follows:

Cognitive Defusion

A key concept in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), involves creating distance from one’s thoughts and emotions to reduce their influence and impact.

Through various techniques such as metaphor, visualization, or repetition, individuals learn to view their thoughts as passing events rather than absolute truths, allowing them to respond more flexibly to challenging situations.

By defusing from unhelpful thoughts, individuals can cultivate greater psychological flexibility and pursue actions aligned with their values and goals.


Acceptance, in the context of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), entails acknowledging and embracing one’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences without attempting to change or control them.

By fostering an attitude of acceptance, individuals learn to make room for uncomfortable or distressing thoughts and feelings, allowing them to respond to life’s challenges with greater resilience and clarity.

Contact with the Present Moment (Mindfulness)

Contact with the present moment, often referred to as mindfulness, is a foundational principle in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

It involves intentionally directing attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, and nonjudgment.

Through mindfulness practices such as mindful breathing, body scans, or observing sensory experiences, individuals cultivate a heightened awareness of their thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and surroundings.

The Observing Self

The Observing Self, a concept in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), represents the aspect of consciousness that can observe and experience thoughts, emotions, and sensations without identification or attachment.

By cultivating awareness of the Observing Self, individuals can gain distance from their thoughts and emotions, fostering psychological flexibility and promoting a greater sense of inner peace and well-being.


Values, within the context of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), refer to deeply-held guiding principles that define what is important and meaningful to an individual.

By clarifying and aligning with their values, individuals can make choices and take actions that lead to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life, even in the presence of challenging thoughts or emotions.

Committed Action

Committed action, a core principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), involves taking purposeful steps towards valued goals and aspirations, guided by one’s identified values.

By engaging in committed action, individuals move beyond mere intention and take tangible steps to create meaningful change in their lives, even in the face of obstacles or discomfort.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers a promising approach to addressing substance use disorders (SUDs) by targeting the underlying psychological processes that contribute to addictive behaviors.

One key aspect of ACT is its emphasis on fostering psychological flexibility, which enables individuals to respond adaptively to cravings, triggers, and urges related to substance use.

By teaching individuals to accept uncomfortable thoughts and emotions without judgment, and to commit to actions aligned with their values, ACT empowers individuals to break free from the cycle of addiction.

Furthermore, ACT aims to provide individuals with practical ACT skills to effectively cope with the challenges and stressors commonly associated with SUDs. Through mindfulness practices, individuals learn to develop greater awareness of their internal experiences, including cravings and emotional triggers, without automatically reacting to them.

By cultivating mindfulness, individuals can create space between their thoughts and actions, allowing them to make more intentional choices rather than succumbing to impulsive behaviors.

Additionally, ACT helps individuals clarify their values and goals, providing them with a sense of purpose and direction beyond their substance use. By identifying what truly matters to them and committing to meaningful actions that align with their values, individuals can cultivate a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives, reducing the need for substances as a coping mechanism.

Overall, ACT offers a holistic approach to addressing SUDs, empowering individuals to create positive change and pursue a life of strong emotional, physical and mental health, meaning, and purpose.


AToN Center is a luxury treatment center that offers a variety of residential and outpatient services, including:

Our private center takes a whole-person approach to treatment that distinguishes us from other facilities. We attend to the mind, body, and spirit at our center.

AToN Center offers organic meals, massage therapy, personal training, physical therapy, yoga, and acupuncture. We also embrace an integrated treatment strategy, delivering an array of interventions at our San Diego location.

Our addiction rehabilitation facility is renowned for its comprehensive offerings, boasting individual and group counseling services, holistic treatment modalities, a highly skilled staff of addiction and mental health professionals, and onsite detoxification services.

Our overarching goal is to equip patients with the necessary resources and support systems to facilitate sustained recovery from substance misuse and related disorders, ensuring they are empowered to lead fulfilling lives free from addiction.

How Does AToN Use ACT?

AToN offers several evidence-based therapies, including ACT.

Specifically, regarding ACT, we firmly believe in the methodology of this approach as it aligns with our philosophy, which is our acronym, Aid To Navigation.

Just as ACT seeks to motivate individuals to live their best lives, we aim to help you find your direction while in recovery.

Indeed, one of the foundations that guide our success is helping you to find balance in your life.

Our team of highly trained therapists and psychologists provides individual and group therapy and recovery programming, harmonizing our treatment offerings with ACT’s principles.


Finding a facility to effectively treat addiction sensitively and comprehensively can be daunting.

However, at AToN Center, we have the expertise and compassion that delivers proven results. AToN Center is the preferred choice for high-quality, client-centered, discreet care in San Diego.

Contact us today to find out how you or a loved one can get on the road to healing.

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