Everyone wants to be happy. It is what we want. It is what our clients want, even our young clients - they “just want to be happy”. However, this is the most difficult and challenging thing in the world… Adolescence, in particular, can be, and usually is, a difficult period with all sorts of challenges: a body constantly changing, new connections with peers, the development of a sense of identity and emotional independence... Furthermore, the way our brain is wired can also be an obstacle to “living happily ever after”. Therefore, how to go through life, facing all these demanding situations, with a sense of purpose and direction?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be an innovative quite useful approach to help adolescents deal with life challenges and emotional difficulties. Rather than targeting the content, frequency and form of inner experience (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations…), ACT seeks to change the function of internal phenomena and the relationship with these phenomena, to diminish their behavioural impact. This may include: seeing and accepting thoughts and feelings as they are (just thoughts and feelings) without trying to run away, modify or control them; moment to moment awareness; and identifying what is import to guide their way through life. As a transdiagnostic approach, ACT may be particularly suitable for adolescents, whose struggle involves experiential avoidance due to their heightened sensitivity to hurting and rejection. Furthermore, adolescents have more of a beginner’s mind, and are trying to sort out what person they are, what kind of person they want to be and what kind of life they want to have.
ACT will give adolescents the opportunity to address all these challenges with open curiosity, through playful experiments (experiential learning). It will also help adolescents to foster psychological flexibility, living their lives guided by what is really important, even when difficult thoughts and feelings get in the way.