Introducing ACT

If you’re reading this site, it might be because you already know what ACT is about, in which case feel free to either skip this page or give me constructive feedback on how to summarise more clearly. In case you don’t though, I thought an introduction might be in order.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a third wave cognitive behavioural therapy often utilised by Clinical Psychologists and other mental health professionals in a 1:1 therapy or group setting. It’s also often used by mental health professionals for self care and maintaining wellbeing. It’s based on sound theory and research by many groups of people but for example Steven Hayes, and the evidence base of which problems it can be helpful to treat in what age groups is expanding all the time. For example, there is research evidence of ACT being helpful for adults and young people with depression and anxiety, for people recovering from eating disorders, for people recovering from addiction and for people living with chronic pain or other chronic conditions. There’s some work which has already been done looking at using ACT in the early years of parenting by Amy Murrell and Lisa Coyne who have published a book called “The Joy of parenting in the early years” which I read towards the end of my third pregnancy and has influenced my parenting style. There’s also evidence of mindfulness improving mental health outcomes for pregnant women, and an app developed specifically for this is “mind the bump”. As such, while there is validity to using this approach in pregnancy and with parenting young children, it isn’t mainstream yet and I feel it should be. I also believe in being the change you want to see in the world, so feel some personal responsibility to do something about that given I’m a Clinical Psychologist working in NHS practice with families and children.

In ACT, therapists take the stance of two mountains – that is, both therapist and client each have their own mountain to climb, and this can be openly acknowledged. We all have stuff. We have difficult experiences, we can all cry, get frustrated and engage in unhelpful behaviour patterns. Being a mental health professional doesn’t give immunity to the emotional and physical challenges of pregnnacy, birth and parenthood but it does offer a road map and my aim of this site is to share information both about ACT and how it can be a roadmap through parenthood and also to illustrate with some of my own life examples from my own pregnancies and parenting journey so far. That approach is consistent with that taken by the ACT field leaders who have inspired me in my work, who also illustrate their books about ACT and training events with their own life examples. Perhaps not least because otherwise therapeutic concepts can be a bit abstract and context is helpful to integrate them into our own learning – and ACT is a contextual cognitive behavioural approach. In 1:1 or group therapy, I would never share my own stuff unless intended to be directly to the benefit of the person I was working with. My blog is perhaps a bit different in that because this is a public site, I have shared what I would normally comfortably share at a baby group with people I didn’t know that well yet, but had some connection with. That means its possible someone reading this could feel a degree of overshare at times, in which case please feel free to look away. However, I wanted to share enough examples that someone looking for help to understand an ACT idea connected to a topic I’m trying to cover might find it of use. I’m open to feedback on that, or indeed anything else here.

There are some key concepts from ACT which I’ll give separate pages to and also refer to repeatedly in my blog. For example – Values, mindfulness, defusion, opening up to experience, dropping the struggle, self as context and committed action. The key to making ACT work for you is psychological flexibility- getting lots of practice in with these skills so you can get slick at shifting between them when you need to in a way that improves your quality of life and satisfaction.

The link below is to an interview with Steve Hayes, the key founder of the ACT approach – he talks through the model in a way I find very engaging –

https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/acceptance-commitment-therapy-ACT-steven-hayes-interview

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