Demystifying ACT: A Practical Guide for Therapists

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Introducing Acceptance and Willingness in ACT for PTSD

By Sonja Batten, Ph.D.

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

Highlights

  • After identifying control as part of the problem, the client will be curious as to what alternative the therapist might have.
  • This primary alternative is referred to as willingness or acceptance.
  • Acceptance means opening up and being willing to experience whatever private events naturally arise.

 

Transcript

So, in the previous session or sessions, you have introduced the concept of internal control as part of the problem that has been maintaining the client’s posttraumatic symptoms and life problems.

Hopefully, the client was able to connect with the concept that it’s not that they haven’t worked hard enough to address their problems or try to get better but that the strategies that they’ve been trying may have been getting them deeper in their own hole.

References

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

So, assuming they’ve connected with the concept of control or avoidance or some related construct that you and the client have phrased in another way, then it can be time to begin to introduce what might be the alternative to the way that they’ve been approaching their difficult content and experiences.

If control and avoidance are largely ineffective strategies implemented in efforts to change, decrease, or remove unwanted private experiences, then the ACT therapist needs to be able to provide potential alternatives for the client to practice when such feelings, thoughts, and memories arise.

References

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

Within ACT, the primary alternative to control is described as willingness or acceptance, which shouldn’t be surprising given that the word acceptance is in the name of the therapy. When we use the term willingness, we’re describing a process in which an individual can choose to open up and experience the full range of private experiences without having to change or defend against them.

References

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

The heart of ACT involves repeatedly working with the client to be willing to experience whatever private events, like thoughts, feelings, memories, etc., arise in the service of being able to move forward with life more successfully.
And when we’re talking about trauma treatment, this, of course, does include being open and willing to experience private events related to the trauma itself, but it’s much broader than that. All private events are there to be faced with openness and willingness.

References

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

So, some key points. After the focus on identifying control as part of the problem that has led to suffering, the client will likely be curious as to what alternative the therapist might have in mind.

Within ACT, this primary alternative is generally referred to as willingness or acceptance.

This means working with the client to open up and be willing to experience whatever private events naturally arise whether related to the client’s history of trauma or not.

More ACT for PTSD presentations