When I first overheard my workmate talking about the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in 2008 I immediately knew it was a therapy aligned with the way I live my life and volunteered to co facilitate a group with her.
In the weeks that followed my philosophical alignment with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was confirmed and my professional and personal life was irrevocably changed.
ACT is about getting connected to what really matters to you in life, who you want to be, and how you want to be.
Through mindfulness (being in the here and now with awareness) we learn to be with unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable emotions in a safe way. This allows us to be more in control of our behavior, and where we put our attention, so that we can stop enacting unhelpful habitual behaviors and instead take ongoing action to create the life we want to be living.
Connecting with my values enabled me to stop feeling bad about myself when I chose to spend my time and energy on areas of life and activities which were different to my friends and family. It taught me to safely experience and make sense of emotions which had previously been unbearable. Most importantly of all the principals of ACT allowed me to see the underlying beliefs which were attracting me into relationships which had no future. And it gave me the courage to follow my heart and risk so much to tell my then friend, now husband that I loved him when we had never even kissed.
My years of mindfulness training and practice created a solid foundation for my innate understanding of the principals of ACT and my ability to communicate these ideas in simple, accessible ways. As soon as I was given the opportunity to run my own program I began to strip away the jargon and technical language, and calling upon my Narrative Therapy and Creative Arts Therapy background I created an easy to understand strength focused program rich with metaphor and visual representation.
Narrative therapy and MIECAT Creative Arts Therapy are both post-modern therapies which understand that the people who come for therapy are the experts in their own lives. Both therapies are emergent and strive through different but complementary methods to assist in helping people find their own meanings and come to their own understandings. The structure of ACT came as a relief and gave me a sense of reassurance that important aspects of my clients experience and patterns of behaviour were not being left unattended.
In an individual counselling setting it is possible for a skilled practitioner to weave the principals of ACT into a session experientially without being drawn into lecturing or taking the stance of expert. However, in the group therapy setting this is considerably more challenging.
Psycho education by nature places the therapist into the position of expert which has the immediate effect of undermining the knowledge of and dis-empowering the participants in the group. For the last eight years it has been my aspiration to develop an ACT group in which is entirely free of psycho education but instead facilitates participants to come to the know the principals of ACT through experiential practices and arts based exploration.
I have at this time, by no means accomplished this ambitious task. I have developed some interesting and effective idea for helping people take perspective on their thinking, come to their own understanding of the importance of connecting to what really matters in life and the unavoidable necessity of safely experiencing emotional discomfort as they move toward it.
It is these ideas that I will be sharing in the experiential Arts based approach to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy workshop being held in Melbourne on August 6th & 7th.
Bookings available at https://www.trybooking.com/KMBN and https://www.trybooking.com/183911