The ACT for OCD Toolbox: A Guide for Therapists

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Mindfulness Exercises for OCD

By Kate Morrison, Ph.D.

This presentation is an excerpt from the online courseThe ACT for OCD Toolbox: A Guide for Therapists“.

Highlights

  • An active practice of being in the present in the session is recommended.
  • Practice first with experiences that are not related to their OCD.

 

Transcript

There are many ways to practice being in the present moment and we will go through some examples here today. I’m going to guide you through some practices and I invite you to practice these with me as you’re listening to this audio.

With clients, I recommend practicing first with activities that are unrelated to their OCD themes or other things that are distressing to them. Explain that practicing with something else first will help build the skill before practicing it with more difficult content in the future.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

We’re going to start with an exercise that’s called the bubble wand, what I call the bubble wand. I believe it’s called blowing bubbles.

To begin this exercise, I invite you to close your eyes if you feel comfortable, letting your feet sit flat on the floor, hands hanging on your lap or by your side, really settling in to your body. Now, imagine yourself in a warm sunny field and you notice in your hands that you’re holding a container with bubbles and a bubble wand. Now, I invite you to dip the bubble wand into the bubbles and then create some bubbles.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

You can blow into the wand. You can move the wand around. You can let the breeze create bubbles on their own. And your only job right now is to observe those bubbles almost as if you’ve never seen bubbles before.

Notice how some of them stay in the air and float off into the distance. Notice how some fall immediately. And when they fall, some of them pop right away and are gone and some of them might be hanging out on blades of grass. Notice how some cluster together while others are off on their own. You might notice that there are really big ones and really small ones.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Now, I want you to practice acknowledging any thoughts that are going through your mind right now. And once you notice a thought that comes up, it could be something like “What am I doing? This is boring. My foot itches,” whatever shows up. I want you to imagine dipping that wand into the bubble solution and then blowing that thought into the bubble and just watching what it does.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Notice if it’s a big one, a small one. Does it stay around? Does it disappear quickly? And just keep doing this with your thoughts for the next few moments then I’ll stay silent as you do so. Now, imagine yourself back in the space that you’re in right now and opening your eyes when you’re ready.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Okay. That is an example of a practice of being present and watching the thoughts. What I really like about this particular practice is that it focuses on the uniqueness of all of our thoughts without any judgement to it. We’re simply observing it whether they’re sticky and they stay around or they go away. Our job is just to watch. And if you have the opportunity to actually do this in person with someone and actually blow bubbles and watch that with them, it can be even more powerful.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

Another one that we wouldn’t walk through but I just want to highlight is one that’s called mindful action. And in this, I ask my clients to pick one activity that they do every single day that’s generally more on autopilot, so often, things like our hygiene, so brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, going to the bathroom, things that they may not think twice about, and to break it down into a much slower activity.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

We’re really taking at least double the amount of time it would normally take them to do something and to slow it down so they can notice every single action and thought and decision that is associated with this thing that’s normally on autopilot. And ask them to do that every day that week and report back to you what they learned or what they noticed. And often, it’s a pretty eye-opening experience for clients.

References

Stoddard, J. A., & Afari, N. (2014). The big book of ACT metaphors: A practitioner’s guide to experiential exercises and metaphors in acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

The key points here are that active practice with being in the present in the session is recommended. Practice first with experiences that are not related to their OCD in order for the client to learn this skill before practicing it with more difficult content. And then we practiced two examples of being present.

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