Sunday, 26 September 2010

Steve Hayes at UCL

Spent the last 2 days in a workshop with Steve Hayes, creator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

To say the least, it is challenging.  A common experience to nearly everyone is to feel lost and confused.  And yet.  ACT is taking off .  Something resonates.

What?

For me, it is clear.  ACT appeals to head and heart.

The appeal to the heart is that human pain is inevitable and normal.   Even useful.  This is a relief from the cutlural assumption that we can and should be happier.   I know, deep down, that emotional control doesn't work, but having a way of renegotating my relationship to those thoughts helps a lot.  Seeing the context of thoughts change allows me to live a more meaningful life - it's the thorn in the service of the rose.  This is why, in my view, ACT represents the future of positive psychology.

And then the head.  ACT  has a growing body evidence to suggest it works in everything from chronic pain to workplace stress.  From anxiety and depression to OCD.  That's important, but perhaps even more important is that it is based on a clear theoretical premise, so there's has an explanation not just that something works but why.  Having a theory-based intervention allows us to predict mdeiators (or mechanisms) of change, so we begin to understand the process of why something works as well as the simple fact that it works.  That's what Relational Frame Theory brings.

It's a huge challenge to sit in a Steve Hayes workshop when I have a business to run.  I panic when I think of the time I've spent training (over 5 years now).  But each time I learn a little more and my head and heart tell me that this is what being a psychologist is truly about.

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