Treatment Success: Greg's Story
Read about what treatment looked like for Greg by clicking on the pages of this e-book. Greg's story is based on the experiences of Veterans with depression that have decided to give ACT treatment a try. See if you can identify specific goals and treatment steps in Greg's story!
Greg is a 64-year-old father and grandfather who served in Vietnam. Though things at home haven't always been easy, family has always been a big part of his life. For years, Greg has struggled with feeling down but has tried not to focus on it. He's been feeling worse since he and his wife divorced two years ago. Greg thinks a lot about the past and regrets decisions he made. Greg's family doctor diagnosed him with depression, but told him he didn't have to keep feeling the way he did. He told Greg there are proven "talk therapies" that could help him beat depression and get back to living his life. Greg wasn't much for talking but didn't want to take yet another medication. He agreed to meet with a therapist to learn more about his options.
Greg met with Rachel, a therapist at the VA, who told him more about proven therapies for depression. Greg connected with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT). He liked that ACT helps people get "unstuck" from difficult thoughts and feelings. He also liked that it helps people reconnect with what's important to them. Greg felt there was little that was important in his life anymore. He also took notice when Rachel said ACT helps people be kinder to themselves. He realized that he's been real hard on himself, especially since his wife left. As a first step to taking care of himself, Greg decided to give ACT a try.
Early in treatment, Greg learned how much he tries to control what he feels. He discovered that the more he does this, the worse he feels and the more he loses control of his life. He got how putting so much energy into avoiding his emotions actually gave them more power. Rachel taught Greg a skill called "mindfulness" that helped him be more aware of - and accept - his feelings so that they no longer held so much power over him. He practiced mindfulness exercises with Rachel and at home.
Greg also worked to clarify his values, what is truly important to him. He realized that, other than his family, he had little that brought meaning to his life. With Rachel's help, he identified values in 3 areas: being open and connected to others, being creative, and giving back to the community.
Greg started to feel more comfortable doing mindfulness. And he noticed it helped him to feel more flexible and free of the weight of emotions. Greg learned another skill to help him step back and separate himself from painful thoughts he had about himself and his past choices. When he did this, he began to see his thoughts differently and didn't feel so controlled by them. Greg also worked on taking steps to put his values for what is important to him into action. He saw that, as he started to live according to his values and connect again with the world around him, he felt better.
Greg continued to practice the skills he learned. As he did, he noticed he was better able to accept his thoughts and feelings. He no longer felt threatened by them. Since beginning therapy, Greg had really worked to change his "relationship" with his thoughts and feelings. He had more compassion for himself and his history. He also continued to take actions related to his values, doing things that were important to him. His life was becoming meaningful again.
After 12 weeks, Greg found a new direction in life. He was more open to his thoughts and feelings and in control of his behavior and choices. He was living more in the present, rather than dwelling on the past, and was focusing more on what's important to him. He recently started dating again and was spending time with new friends and his grandkids. He still felt sad about his divorce and sometimes thought about the past, but these experiences were less common and didn't have the impact they once did. Greg felt that he was ready to complete therapy but said he would like to meet with Rachel once more in a couple of months to check in.
Two months after completing ACT treatment, Greg met with Rachel for a booster session. He reported that he was still practicing mindfulness and taking actions consistent with his values, which he kept listed on a sheet of paper by his bed. He reported that life felt more meaningful even though he struggled now and then. He also started volunteering at a nearby children's hospital. Greg continued to date but noted that he wasn't ready for a serious relationship. He did though say that he was open to one in the future!