Last week, we learned a bit about the upcoming Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) talks at this year’s conference from presenters Jesse Crosby and Nate Gruner. Today, we are back with a post from Michael Twohig, PhD, with his take on why ACT is emerging as such an important part of OCD treatment.
Dr. Twohig is presenting three talks about ACT at this year’s Conference, and will also be presenting a poster about his ongoing research study of ACT and ERP with Jonathan Abramowitz. Their study is the recipient of an IOCDF Grant Award for 2012.
Can you give a quick overview of the main points of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
ACT is really about helping people find ways to live the lives they want with the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations they have. It helps people with OCD find ways to do the things they want to do even if they experience obsessions, anxiety, or fears. This can be useful for some people who have not been successful in regulating or changing their internal experiences, or have certain thoughts or feelings that will not go away. ACT offers a way to keep moving in life even if certain thoughts or feelings do not change.
Why should people with OCD be interested in learning more about this treatment?
I think ACT might offer people with OCD a new way to look at or respond to their obsessions and anxiety. It might be particularly interesting for those who feel stuck.
How do you see ACT being helpful for someone with OCD?
One of the things that I like about ACT, that others might find useful too, is its focus on living a meaningful life. When therapy focuses on this issue, I think it takes the pressure off changing the severity of obsessions and anxiety, and puts it on how people are doing in their lives.
It is much easier to change what we do than what we think or feel. I think it is a great idea to put the emphasis of treatment on living rather than on symptom levels.
You were a 2012 IOCDF Grant Winner for the study “Combining Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with Exposure and Response Prevention to enhance the treatment of OCD.” Many conference goers have heard a lot about Exposure and Response Prevention, or ERP. What do you feel are the important ingredients from ACT that you believe will enhance an ERP-based treatment?
This is an issue that many researchers are looking into with a variety of disorders. My short answer to this question is that it gives meaning to the exposures [of ERP] and offers particular skills to practice while engaged in the exposures. In ACT we use the exposure exercises as opportunities to practice skills like being present, seeing thoughts as thoughts, and allowing anxiety to come and go. Homework exercises are generally opportunities to practice doing things that are important to people. We’ll see how the study turns out, but one possibility is that casting the exposure exercises this way increases engagement and enjoyment of the therapy.
I would also like to thank IOCDF for funding it and Jon Abramowitz for doing the study with me!
Dr. Twohig will be co-presenting “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for OCD and Related Disorders: Current Research and Future Directions” with Jesse Crosby, MS, on Saturday, July 28th, from 10:00–11:00am. He will also be co-presenting “The Interaction of ACT with ERP” with Jonathan Abramowitz, PhD, on Saturday from 2:00–3:45pm. In addition, Dr. Twohig will be on the panel of “How Does ACT Really Fit into the Treatment of OCD?” on Sunday, July 29th, from 9:00–10:30am.
For more information about the ICODF Conference, or to register, please visit: http://ocfoundation.org/conference.