Acceptance and Commitment Therapy… | Counseling | Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for FND

Jonah , MSW, LSW — Associate therapist

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) offers a promising approach for individuals with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). FND is a complex condition characterized by neurological symptoms without a clear medical explanation, which can be distressing and disrupt daily life. ACT aims to help individuals develop greater psychological flexibility by accepting their experiences and taking action based on their values. By integrating various components such as defusion, values clarification, committed action, and mindfulness, individuals can reduce emotional distress, increase acceptance of symptoms, and enhance overall well-being.

ACT for FND consists of several interconnected components that work together to facilitate positive change and increase psychological flexibility. Let's take a closer look at each component:

  1. Defusion: In ACT, defusion is about stepping back and observing our thoughts and emotions without getting entangled or controlled by them. For individuals with FND, defusion helps create distance from negative thoughts and emotions associated with their symptoms. By recognizing that these thoughts and emotions don't necessarily reflect reality, individuals can reduce distress and cultivate acceptance.

For example, someone with FND who experiences involuntary movements might have thoughts like "I'm a failure" or "Everyone is judging me." Through defusion, they can learn to see these thoughts as passing mental events rather than truths. By not getting caught up in these thoughts, they can reduce distress and engage in activities that bring them joy, despite the presence of movements.

  1. Values Clarification: Values clarification involves exploring and identifying what truly matters to us in life. For individuals with FND, symptoms can sometimes hinder their ability to engage in activities aligned with their values. Through values clarification, individuals connect with their deepest aspirations and commit to actions consistent with those values, even in the face of symptoms.

For instance, someone with FND who experiences chronic pain might believe they can no longer pursue their career goals or enjoy hobbies they once loved. Through values clarification, they can rediscover what brings them meaning and purpose. Whether it's spending quality time with loved ones or engaging in creative pursuits, committing to actions aligned with these values can reignite their motivation and sense of fulfillment.

  1. Committed Action: Committed action is all about taking purposeful steps based on our values, even when it's challenging or uncomfortable. In the context of FND, individuals often feel restricted by their symptoms. By combining defusion and values clarification, individuals can develop resilience and coping skills to engage in actions that align with their values, despite the presence of symptoms.

For example, someone with FND who experiences dizziness may have a fear of falling and may avoid leaving their home. Through defusion and recognizing that dizziness doesn't necessarily lead to falling, they can challenge their fears and gradually engage in activities outside their comfort zone. By taking committed action, they can regain a sense of control and pursue their values, even in the face of dizziness.

  1. Mindfulness: Mindfulness involves being fully present in the here and now, without judgment. In the context of FND, mindfulness can help individuals develop a greater awareness of their symptoms and their impact on thoughts and emotions. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can cultivate a sense of calm and acceptance, reducing emotional distress and enhancing overall well-being.

For instance, someone with FND who experiences sensory disturbances may feel anxious or distressed when they occur. Through mindfulness, they can observe these sensations without judgment or resistance. By focusing attention on the present moment, they can develop a deeper understanding of their body and experiences, leading to reduced distress and increased acceptance of symptoms.

More Information about FND

Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) can be a complex and challenging condition to navigate. It affects the functioning of the nervous system and gives rise to a wide range of symptoms that resemble those of neurological disorders. However, unlike other neurological conditions, FND lacks a clear medical explanation in terms of structural or biochemical abnormalities. FND is a rule-in diagnosis, meaning there are specific criteria that must be met. The number of medical questions, or rather a deeper understanding of the exact mechanism causing the condition can make it difficult for individuals and healthcare professionals to fully understand and address the condition.

FND can look very different from person to person. The symptoms people experience can vary widely. Those living with FND may experience a diverse range of symptoms that can impact movement, sensation, and bodily functions. Weakness, tremors, numbness, seizures, speech difficulties, and problems with coordination or balance are just a few examples. The unpredictability and fluctuation of these symptoms often lead to significant distress and challenges in everyday life.

One of the key features of FND is the presence of symptoms that don't align with known neurological conditions. FND is best thought of as a computer system where there is nothing wrong with hardware or software; it just sometimes glitches.

While the exact cause of FND remains unclear, research suggests that biological, psychological, and social factors may contribute to its development. Traumatic events, such as physical or emotional trauma, have been associated with the onset or worsening of FND symptoms. Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, and depression are also commonly observed in individuals with FND and may play a role in the manifestation and maintenance of symptoms.

It's important to acknowledge that FND is a genuine and valid medical condition, despite the absence of observable neurological abnormalities. The symptoms experienced by individuals with FND are real and can have a profound impact on their lives. To provide effective support, it's crucial to approach FND with empathy, understanding, and a holistic perspective that recognizes the complex interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors.

Diagnosing FND requires a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional experienced in neurological disorders. The diagnosis is often based on the presence of specific clinical features and the careful exclusion of other known neurological conditions through thorough medical examinations and tests.

Treating FND typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the diverse needs of individuals. It may include medical management, psychotherapy, and physical therapy, among other interventions. As discussed above, one promising psychotherapeutic approach for FND is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), but it's important to remember that ACT is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each individual's journey is unique, and the treatment should be tailored to meet their specific needs and goals.

In addition to mental health counseling & psychotherapy, neurologists, psychiatristschologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and others can all contribute to a comprehensive treatment plan. Education and support for individuals and their families are also crucial in fostering understanding, coping strategies, and resilience in the face of this challenging condition.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, ACT offers a promising approach for individuals with FND, promoting psychological flexibility, acceptance of experiences, and improved well-being. By incorporating components such as defusion, values clarification, committed action, and mindfulness, individuals can reduce emotional distress, increase acceptance of symptoms, and enhance their overall quality of life. Remember, you don't have to face FND alone. Seeking support from a compassionate and experienced mental health professional who specializes in ACT for FND can make a significant difference in your journey toward acceptance, increased psychological flexibility, and overall well-being.

At TCFG you can schedule directly online with a FND therapist. If you prefer talking to a FND therapist first, you may call (215) 922-LOVE (5683) ext 100 to be connected with our intake department. Lastly, you can call our Director, “Alex” Caroline Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW at (267) 324–9564 to discuss your particular situation. For your convenience, we have six physical therapy offices and can also provide counseling and therapy virtually.

    OUR GUARANTEE: you deserve the best FND therapist possible. If you don't feel like the FND therapist that you met with was the right fit, then free of charge you can try out a different therapist. Being in a group practices allows for flexibility.

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