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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for ADHD

At Possibilities, clinicians offer Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for ADHD, also known as ACT for ADHD. We get lots of questions about ACT. Here are the most common ones, and our answers.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a mindfulness-based behavioural therapy with evidence to support its effectiveness for people facing a variety of challenges. With ACT, our therapists will help you identify goals, develop an action plan, and commit to achieving outcomes that are most meaningful to you.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a powerful, evidence-based psychological treatment. Clinicians providing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy at Possibilities work with clients on the main goals of ACT; helping individuals commit to the process of creating rich, full, and meaningful lives while accepting the challenges that life inevitably brings—especially when ADHD and associated conditions like anxiety or depression are part of daily living.

ADHD comes with several core challenges, like inattention, restlessness, impulsivity, and emotional reactivity. With these challenges come further struggles: daily procrastination, self-criticism, and work that starts with solid intention but ends with unfinished tasks. Difficult thoughts and feelings can arise, too. Clients at the beginning of therapy often share comments that are heartbreaking and disparaging: “I’m a failure”, “I’ll never accomplish my goals because of my ADHD”, or “this is too hard”. At times, these thoughts, feelings, and challenges can be overwhelming for the individuals experiencing them. Negative thoughts and feelings can overshadow strengths, abilities, and traits such as creativity, energy, spontaneity, and passion. ACT addresses thoughts, feelings, and behaviours—all affected by ADD and ADHD—and offers tools and strategies to move individuals from frustration to positive change.

Yes. Mindfulness is an important part of ACT. Mindfulness—at its core—means paying attention on purpose. In practice, it means becoming more aware of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are happening within you, while attending to what is around you, too.

If you shy away from mindfulness, thinking that ADHD leaves you little chance to be still, know this: mindfulness doesn’t have to be passive. Movement, martial arts, yoga and other forms of exercise can help increase your awareness of what is happening inside of you and all around you. Increased awareness through mindfulness—no matter how you choose to practise it—means that your mind and body will become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. The clinician working with you will help increase your awareness, too. That’s important in ACT since changing behaviours for success means pinpointing unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and actions that are holding you back. Here’s another key component of mindfulness in ACT: your thoughts are thoughts, and they are not who you are. Yes, individuals with ADHD experience many challenges. But they bring strengths to their life and to those around them, too, like spontaneity, openness to new experiences, and positive energy and enthusiasm! Through ACT for ADHD, individuals become more mindful of specific challenges they are experiencing so they can address them effectively with support and change. At the same time, personal strengths are leveraged, moving them more vividly into your awareness and your life. 

Neuroscience research has consistently documented differences in brain chemistry and circuitry in ADHD. So how can a therapy like ACT help if ADHD has a neurological basis? This question is a good one! Our central nervous system—that’s the brain and the spinal cord—are the basic ingredients that give rise to our thoughts, feelings, and actions. How the brain interprets the world has a tremendous impact on the emotions we feel and the actions we do. ACT has an important role to play in disrupting negative thoughts and feelings so the chain of reactions that leaves individuals stuck in self-doubt and inaction is broken. Clinicians who use ACT help clients learn the skills they need to confront difficult thoughts and unpleasant feelings effectively, giving unhelpful ideas and feelings much less impact and influence on action. ACT also helps clients connect to what is really important to them, creating conditions for new behaviours and new possibilities.

The acceptance in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy means becoming more realistic about challenges—and what you can do—to help you move forward. Commitment means making a plan of action and trying it out. For many people with ADHD, avoiding action or doing things impulsively become habits that are hard to break. Commitment is the opposite of both impulsivity and avoidance, and can develop with clinician support through ACT.

In sessions, the therapist applies ACT principles in a fluid manner, helping clients get unstuck from old patterns and develop a greater state of psychological flexibility moving forward. ACT helps individuals to:

  • accept the diagnosis of ADHD and other related conditions
  • handle difficult thoughts and feelings so that they have less influence on actions
  • connect deeply to what really matters
  • develop an action plan to move towards meaningful goals and values
  • live the life one wants and hopes for

Yes. ACT consists of 6 core processes to help you bring meaningful change into your life:

  1. Defusion: Separating you from unhelpful thoughts and feelings that take you away from how you want to live
  2. Acceptance: Making room for all of your thoughts and feelings—both helpful and unhelpful
  3. Presence in the moment: Fully attending and engaging with internal and external experiences—in you and in the environment—in the here and now
  4. Seeing the self: Observing who you are, objectively and flexibly, by stepping away from definitions, labels, and judgements
  5. Embracing values: Knowing what is important for you
  6. Committed action: Actively moving towards the life you want with new decisions and actions, instead of letting impulsivity or procrastination take the lead

Yes! We see clients across Ontario through secure video sessions. Our health professionals who offer ACT are licensed in the province of Ontario. To be seen remotely, you must be physically present in the province of Ontario for all therapy sessions.

ACT is an effective treatment for teens and adults. The minimum age for ACT is usually 16 years. The benefits can extend across the lifespan. 

ACT at Possibilities is provided by non-medical health professionals such as psychologists. As such, these services are not covered by OHIP. Your private insurance plan may cover services offered by psychologists, social workers, or registered psychotherapists.

Yes! You do not need a doctor’s referral to start ACT at Possibilities.

If you are excited about new possibilities that can emerge from the dual processes of acceptance and commitment, please contact us at [email protected] or call 1-833-482-5558 and ask about our clinicians who provide ACT for ADHD. You can also get started right away by completing our Registration Form. Once this form is received, our Team will review your needs, match you to an appropriate clinician, and get back to you with booking options.

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