Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapy that is densely grounded in contextual behavioral science, emphasizing the way in which behavior functions as avoidance or control of difficult internal experience. The ACT model aims to change how we relate to our thoughts and feelings (rather than changing the thoughts and feelings themselves) in order to promote meaningful behavior change in the world outside the skin.
According to ACT, problems in living arise when, rather than observe our experiences as they unfold in the present moment; we are over attached to the content of our thoughts and avoid painful feelings. This leads us to behave in ways that are ineffective and inconsistent with our deeply held values. ACT uses acceptance and mindfulness-based skills to help individuals be more fully in and aware of the present moment, and values and committed action to promote engagement in meaningful activity. The ability to have thoughts and feelings, fully and without defense, while moving in a valued direction is the goal of ACT, and referred to as psychological flexibility.
Studies have shown that ACT is helpful for individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic stress, substance abuse, psychosis, eating disorders, terminal cancer, chronic pain, and diabetes. Research also suggests that effects may occur by unique processes different than those hypothesized in more traditional CBT (e.g., enhanced acceptance).
The overarching goal of this workshop is to help therapist’s refine their ACT case formulation and intervention skills, specifically in (1) detecting cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance (in themselves and in their clients), (2) choosing from among the 6 ACT processes during a therapeutic encounter, and (3) implementing interventions flexibly with great sensitivity to what is unfolding in the current moment. Individuals with a wide range of experience with the ACT model are invited participate. Day 1 of this 2-day workshop will include an overview of the ACT model and introduction to the component processes.
Rhonda M. Merwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Duke University Medical Center. She is recognized as an ACT trainer by the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) and has presented on ACT nationally and internationally including at annual meetings for the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the Association for Contextual and Behavioral Sciences, the International Conference for Eating Disorders, among others. Dr. Merwin has expertise in ACT and ACT-related processes (acceptance, mindfulness) and Relational Frame Theory, and currently works with individuals whose distress is connected to the body, including work with chronic pain, diabetes, body image, and eating disorders. She has received funding for her research from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute for Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Her forthcoming book (2016) will address how to use ACT in treating anorexia nervosa across the lifespan.
Throughout the workshop, participants will be exposed to typical interventions or sample therapeutic moments. This will include inviting participants to engage in “real plays” (as opposed to “role plays” in which individuals act as someone else) so that they can engage in a genuine experience. Participants are also invited to bring in de-identified case material.
To learn more about this adaptable model check out the ACBS website
Clinical Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work