Acceptance and Commitment Training for Professionals
We teach you ACT Theory, including Contextual Behavioural Science, life-changing interventions and the therapeutic stance to become highly skilled in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). You can commission a course for your service or professional group, join our online ACT Practitioners Community or get personal ACT Clinical Supervision or consultation with ACBS peer-reviewed ACT Trainer Jim Lucas.
Are you interested in Compassion Focused Supervision? Meet Sarah Benkwitz, our resident CFT, ACT, CBT and EMDR specialist.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)?
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic intervention rooted in the behavioural tradition. It has over 1000 RCTs demonstrating its effectiveness for many psychological health problems, including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, work-related stress, addictions, long-term health conditions (LTCs), traumatic stress and many more. For more detailed information about the research journey of ACT, I recommend this book by Nic Hooper and Andreas Larsson.
How does ACT work?
ACT aims to increase psychological flexibility, which is a scientific and empirically supported phenomenon in behavioural science. The research shows that when a person increases their psychological flexibility, their well-being, functioning, and mental health improve.
What is Psychological Flexibility?
We can understand psychological flexibility by first recognising that it has an opposite – psychological inflexibility. When a person is inflexible, they are more likely to suffer from emotional distress, ill health and lower life expectancy. One can measure flexibility through the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire II (AAQ2). This short psychometric self-report measure captures the behavioural processes in psychological flexibility. It can also be measured qualitatively by tracking your own experience.
Psychological flexibility is made up of six interrelated and distinct behavioural processes. They include mindfulness, acceptance and behavioural change processes. More specifically, they are:
- Willingness or Acceptance
- Cognitive Defusion
- Contact with the Present Moment
- Perspective-taking through an Observing-Self
- Values Clarification
- Values-based Committed Actions
The Six Processes of Psychological Flexibility
Each behavioural process has a respective opposite that shows you how to identify inflexibility. The list below corresponds to the list above with each number:
- Experiential Avoidance
- Cognitive Fusion
- Inflexible Attention and dominance of a past or future orientation
- Rigid attachment to a conceptualised self, e.g. “I am weak, bad, a failure etc.”
- Disconnection from life purpose and meaning
- Avoidance, delay or inconsistent attempts at life-affirming activity
ACT aims to shape behaviour both inside and outside the therapy room. You can teach clients techniques (the hands of ACT) inside the session and invite them to practice them outside the therapy in various and multiple contexts. This way, they get to build patterns of committed action.
It is important to help people understand the processes that underpin the techniques. It isn’t merely an intellectual process. It is experiential, requiring a person to ‘move their feet. Hence, one needs to practice understanding willingness or acceptance. The ACT practitioner moves into experiential exercises quickly during the session.
How do I become an effective ACT Practitioner?
To be effective, ACT practitioners require a firm knowledge of the basic science that underpins the application of the model. Without it, practitioners run the risk of going off-track.
One can attend a training workshop and feel invigorated. However, humans are complex, and once practitioners return to their places of work, they can easily feel lost after a few days or weeks of trying to apply what they’ve learned. Without a commitment to ongoing continuing professional development and supervision, your development will likely stagnate. The commitment to learn and improve is one that you can choose to make. You alone are the master of that choice.
Learn the Theory and Practice
As an ACBS peer-reviewed ACT Trainer, Jim Lucas recognises that he is responsible for ensuring that what he teaches provides you with enough knowledge and skills to begin that journey. If he chose to, he could show you many techniques from ACT. If he were to do that and nothing else, you would not understand the theory and the science that tells you ‘why’ you are doing it.
Similarly, if you were only to learn the theory about ACT, you would not develop the skills you need to help people in your professional role. Combining the ‘head’ (Knowledge and Concepts) and the ‘hands’ (ACT Skills Training) is necessary. However, you may still be left wanting even with these two components.
Experiential Practice: The Heart of ACT
Therapy requires a true and deep connection between two or more humans. Jim’s experience of being a therapist tells him that many of the problems that clients struggle with are rooted in painful and recurring interpersonal disconnections. You can impress a client with your advanced theoretical understanding when in the therapy room. Similarly, you may have a remarkable arsenal of psychological tools at your disposal.
These abilities may make a helpful difference but will likely be limited if a practitioner does not know how to embody the spirit of the model. In truth, one needs to know the ‘heart’ (Personal qualities and Experiential Practice) of ACT to meet another person with empathy, courage and humility.