Demystifying ACT: A Practical Guide for Therapists

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ACT for PTSD: Present Moment Awareness and Self-as-Context

By Sonja Batten, Ph.D.

This video is part of our upcoming online course about ACT for PTSD.

Highlights

  • To approach life with psychological flexibility, individuals need awareness in the present moment.
  • Behavior becomes constricted when it’s aligned with fused self-labels.
  • ACT experiential exercises help trauma survivors come into the present moment and make effective behavioral choices.

 

Transcript

Hello. In this module, we’ll be working on the concepts of present moment awareness and self-as-context.

These processes of ACT address the trauma survivor’s propensity to spend lots of energy focused on memories of the past and worries about the future as well as being defined by the person’s trauma history.

We’ll explore the fact that, although it can be useful to reflect on past events in order to learn from them and to plan for the future, many individuals who present for therapy related to a history of trauma focus excessively on the past or on an imagined future rather than living their lives in the present.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

And many of the problems that bring trauma survivors to treatment have, at their core, some type of problem with remaining in the here and now.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

And within the ACT model, being in contact with the present moment is essential for the processes that we’ve talked about before, like defusion and acceptance as well as what we’ll talk about today, experiencing the self as the context for one’s experiences, and then using all of these skills to live consistently with one’s values.

Mindful awareness in the present moment can be cultivated through a variety of formal and informal exercises and practice.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Now, it’s normal that all individuals who have the ability to use verbal behavior end up defining themselves by a variety of labels, evaluations, and roles, both positive and negative.

Within ACT, this is known as the conceptualized self or self-as-content. And it’s natural to see yourself from the point of view of the conceptualized self. In fact, this is how we talk about ourselves and our experiences every day.

But inflexible and ineffective behavior can result if one is overly attached to this perspective of being defined by the self-as-content.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

When individuals experience and recognize that they are not their content, labels, or history, then they can open up to try new things, move forward, and behave flexibly and effectively.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Although working on these processes can seem rather abstract at first, the ACT model suggests several exercises and practices by which one can learn to experience a consistent perspective of self-as-context where one is not fundamentally defined by the content of one’s thoughts, feelings, evaluations, or history.

In this module, I’ll be providing much more background and grounding to be able to help your clients connect with the present moment and their own experience of a self that is not defined by their history or content.

References

Batten, S. V. (2011). Essentials of acceptance and commitment therapy. SAGE Publications Ltd.

So, some key points.
In order to be able to approach life with psychological flexibility, individuals need to be living with their awareness in the present moment and not determine their behavior based on rigid verbal constructions of who they are and what they are capable of.

Behavior becomes constricted when it’s aligned with fused self-labels rather than responding flexibly based on what is workable in any given moment.

And there are a number of experiential exercises used in ACT to help trauma survivors come into the present moment and make effective behavioral choices that are not simply based on their verbal conceptualizations of themselves.

More ACT for PTSD presentations