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Helping Therapists and their Clients to Avoid Avoiding and Move toward Valued, Vital Living

Full-Color Slides and Printable Handout Packet

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.

Resources:  ACT Workshop Materials for printing

To learn more about this adaptable model check out the ACBS website

2 Day Intensive ACT training 

Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building, Auditorium and Room 500, 325 Pittsboro Street, UNC School of Social Work, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Thursday & Friday, April 7-8, 2016. 9:30am – 3:30pm each day

Day 1: Observing the Processes in Others and Ourselves

Day 1 will include an overview of the model, but will focus specifically on observing the ways in which cognitive fusion and experiential avoidance narrow both individuals in the therapy room, and addressing therapists’ rigidity to maximize their ability to be useful to the client.

  • 9:00 – 9:30 – Coffee and sign in
  • 9:30 – 10:45 – Overview of the ACT model
  • 10:45- 11:00 – break
  • 11:00 – 12:00 – ACT Case Formulation
  • 12:00 – 1:00 – lunch
  • 1:00 – 2:15 – Parallel Process
  • 2:15 – 2:30 – break
  • 2:30 – 3:30 – Sampling Intervention Strategies



Day 2: Moving Flexibly among the Six Component Processes (or What to Do When)

Day 2 will focus on enhancing therapists’ ability to quickly assess a therapeutic situation (using the ACT model), and identify which ACT process will most effectively move the client forward. We will practice moving between and amongst the processes flexibly and fluidly in a manner that is sensitive to the changing contingencies in the therapy room.

  • 9:00 – 9:30 – coffee and sign in
  • 9:30 – 10:45 –Moving Flexibly between Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Processes and Commitment and Behavior Change Processes
  • 10:45- 11:00 – break
  • 11:00- 12:30 – Fluid Integration of the 6 Core Processes
  • 12:30 – 1:30 – lunch
  • 1:30 – 3:30 – Practice; Pitfalls; Q&A

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.

Learning Objectives. Participants will gain knowledge and skills to:

  1. Describe the ACT model with a focus on how it is situated within CBT and based on functional contextualism
  2. Describe the 6 core processes that comprise psychological flexibility
  3. Practice at least 2 strategies for ACT-based case formulation
  4. Describe at least 2 ways in which the ACT model applies to the therapeutic relationship
  5. Identify signs of experiential avoidance and cognitive fusion in themselves and their clients
  6. Practice at least 1 intervention to increase openness to experience
  7. Practice at least 1 intervention to increase present moment awareness
  8. Practice at least 1 intervention to facilitate values authorship
  9. Identify and address at least 2 therapist barriers to helping clients accept painful emotions
  10. Identify at least 2 common pitfalls in using ACT with clients

Trainer: Rhonda Merwin, Ph.D.


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.

Target Audience: 

Intermediate Workshop. This workshop is appropriate for students and behavioral health professionals at all levels of expertise and working with any population in any treatment setting. Clinicians using ACT and 3rd wave CBT models will be particularly interested, but no prior knowledge of ACT or RFT is required. While targeted to those without a lot of experience with ACT, more experienced ACT practitioners will be able to use these principles to move beyond protocols and formal exercises to increase their flexibility and clinical effectiveness. The experience is personally challenging at times but your privacy will always be protected.

CREDITS: Program will provide 9.0 Contact Hours from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

9.0 Contact Hours from UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

9.0 Contact Hours NBCC (provider #6642) The UNC School of Social Work is an NBCC-Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEPTM) and may offer NBCC-approved clock hours for events that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP solely is responsible for all aspects of the program.  

These programs are co-sponsored by the North Carolina Psychological Association and the UNC School of Social Work. The North Carolina Psychological Association is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The North Carolina Psychological Association maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This program is offered for 9.0 hours of continuing education credit.


(by Feb 20)

Early Bird discounts:  $200 general; $180 SSW Discount

after Feb 20:  $250 general; $230 SSW Discount

* eligible for SSW Discount = current UNC School of Social Work students, faculty, field instructors, and task supervisors

** Category A credit is available for additional $6 and individuals must be participate both days


Register here

Transportation/Directions: The most reliable place to park is in the UNC Hospital lot on Manning Drive. Parking fee is $1.50/ hour. There are also numerous “park & ride” locations in Chapel Hill, with free bus service to (or near) the School of Social Work. Directions.

Payment and refund policies A refund of 70% of the paid registration fee will be available for written cancellation request is received 48 hours prior to the program date. You may send a substitute in your place.  

Attendance Policy  – To receive credit, you must be present for the entire session, and must sign the sign-in and sign-out sheets. No credit will be given to participants who are more than 15 minutes late at the beginning of any session. No credit will be given to participants who leave before the close of a session. 

How to access UNC wireless: info on connecting to wireless at UNC

Address any questions to Deborah Barrett.