Every individual has a unique story, and it’s vital to identify and appreciate it. Narrative therapy, a type of psychodynamic therapy, is designed to help people identify and rewrite those stories in a preferred direction. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), on the other hand, is a unique treatment technique focused on the present moment’s exploration and acceptance of the individual’s feelings and thoughts. Although they share some similarities, understanding the difference between these two types of therapy can help you determine which one is best for you.
To begin with, narrative therapy is a method where individuals explore and identify the stories they tell themselves and how those stories influence their thought process. The therapist aims to discover the origin of these stories and find ways to change the narrative into a preferred direction rather than to neglect the negative. Narrative therapy has similarities with ACT because the focal point of both treatments is to lead a positive life and embrace the present moment. However, of the differences between the two, narrative therapy focuses more on storytelling and exploring the person’s past experiences, while ACT is focused more on identifying overly involved thinking patterns, enabling individuals to be more present and mindful in the moment.
ACT, unlike narrative therapy, is a mindfulness-based behavioral therapy that aims to reduce negative thinking patterns that cause distress and unwanted behaviors. ACT helps individuals develop a strong relationship with their emotions and thoughts. By embracing and accepting these emotions, individuals can be fully present in the moment. ACT is founded on six key concepts, which are acceptance, commitment, values, mindfulness, defusion, and self-as-context. ACT primarily uses mindfulness exercises to help individuals alleviate negative emotions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, making it an excellent option for individuals struggling with such conditions.
Furthermore, narrative therapy is entirely focused on the individual’s unique life story. This creates a sense of empowerment within the person undergoing therapy, making them more confident and self-aware. Many people find it beneficial to work with a narrative therapist because it helps them understand the various components of their life stories, making it easier for them to recognize and embrace all aspects of their past, present, and future. In contrast, ACT is focused more on the momentary thoughts, emotions, and sensations. The mind and body are closely connected, and therefore much of the research on ACT mainly consists of mindfulness exercises and techniques.
In conclusion, narrative therapy and ACT are two different types of therapy that share some similarities. Narrative therapy is a story-based behavior therapy that concentrates on exploring and changing an individual’s life story, while ACT’s primary focus is on the present moment, enabling individuals to be more mindful and recognizing their emotions. Therefore, if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other negative emotions, ACT could be the ideal treatment technique for you. However, suppose you are seeking to identify and change any self-sabotaging stories you tell yourself about your past, present, or future. In that case, narrative therapy may be the most appropriate option for you. Either way, both therapeutic approaches can effectively improve an individual’s mental wellbeing, overall quality of life, and sense of self-awareness.
If you have any questions or would like to explore further, please book a free, no-charge online appointment with either myself, Madeleine Satov, BAS (Hons), MACP (c), RP (Qualifying), or another Kitchener psychotherapist at CARESPACE. We are happy to listen and are here to help!