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You realize the pain of fighting with ideas and feelings, when you encounter anxiety or major depressive disorder. An option for some is Acceptance-Based Behavioral Therapy, or ABBT, which helps people relate and react in new methods to find relief to feelings and ideas.

“ABBT draws from behavioral therapy in that previous learning is believed to cause and keep emotional problems, and so treatment calls for learning new patterns of reacting,” said Lizabeth Roemer, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and coauthor of the novel The Mindful Way Through Stress: Break Free From Chronic Worry and Reclaim Your Life. “One specific region of new learning in ABBT is learning how to relate differently to one’s internal experience — with knowledge, interest, empathy, and acceptance instead of judgment, criticism, and avoidance.”

A 2013 study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found ABBT to be a powerful treatment for those who have generalized anxiety disorder along with other co-occurring illnesses. That confirmed findings of a 2008 study in the same journal that reported that 78 percent of people with generalized anxiety disorder no longer fulfilled the diagnostic criteria with ABBT.

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

ABBT comes from the more extensive tradition of behavioral therapy. “From a behavioral standpoint, we learn particular patterns and habits of responding based on our observations and experiences,” Roemer said. Things like emotions and the best way to handle them, for example, are often learned from extended families, parents, and societal messages. People learn through the outcomes they experience as a consequence of the activities.

When habitual patterns of responding that are successful in certain scenarios wind up causing problems in another, mental problems can arise. A psychology professor at Suffolk University in Boston, PhD, Susan Orsillo and Roemer’s co author, gave the example of a girl who grew up in a family that discouraged emotional expression. She adapted to act this way but ultimately the behavior caused problems when trying to develop an intimate relationship.

Another example would be if you had been anxious about giving a large presentation at the office. Instead of confronting the panic, you call in sick and realize that avoidance reduces your nervousness. The problem this creates, however, is that you just never have the opportunity to learn that you can successfully manage in an anxiety-provoking situation as the alternative was to avert it instead.

Defining Acceptance-Based Behavioral Therapy

ABBT is actually a number of treatments that fall under behavioral therapy. “Particularly, ABBTs focus on the way that people naturally learn how to respond negatively, critically, and judgmentally to their particular internal encounters — thoughts, feelings, senses, memories — and also to see these experiences as defining, long-lasting ‘personality traits’ rather than as passing encounters,” Orsillo said.

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As an example, many people see anxiety as a negative emotion that stands in the way of success and shows internal weakness instead of what it actually is: a simple, natural response to a potential danger or challenge.

ABBT motivates individuals to approach their emotions and reactions as ordinary and natural also to comprehend that these feelings usually are not permanent ways of being, but that they are going to increase and decrease with time. You are taught to think about how you feel with compassion and interest rather than judgment instead of attempting to command them and to take these experiences, which may result in less stress.

Ultimately, the treatment encourages people to act in methods are consistent in what is very important to them rather than in ways that will prevent undesired emotions.

How Does Mindfulness Play Into ABBT?

Mindfulness is encouraged in folks using ABBT. “Mindfulness as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn involves paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, with open-hearted compassion and fascination,” Roemer said.

Frequently, formal practices in which individuals set aside time to work on particularly developing this ability are blended with casual practices where individuals ought to work with Meditation is one type of proper practice which can be utilized.

Mindfulness and Nervousness: What You Can Expect With ABBT

ABBT may be tailored to the individual, but Roemer’s and Orsillo’s research has centered -session variant. Early sessions concentrate on supplying advice, increasing knowledge, and learning new skills, while later ones encourage employing the skills in actual life. The length of therapy can be shorter or longer as needed, along with a group format was created as well.

The therapy encourages them to pay attention to their reactions through the week and focuses on teaching people about their responses. During therapy sessions, participants practice skills to help them relate differently to their internal responses. Writing discussion and assignments with all the therapist are often used to simply help identify what folks consider important in different regions in their lives.

Ultimately, ABBT can be very helpful to many people. “Often individuals see their emotions or ideas as evidence of weakness or something being wrong together,” Orsillo said. “Treatment stresses the naturalness and humanness of all of our reactions, leading clients to look at these experiences in the same manner.”

Downloadable mindfulness exercises along with other information regarding ABBT are available at The Aware Way Through Stress Web site.

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