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The ACT Matrix
What Every Counselor Should Know
with Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Host: Counselor Toolbox & Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

Continuing education credits are available for this podcast at:

~    Review the main points of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
~    Review how to apply the ACT matrix
~    Identify the shortcut question
The Main Principles of ACT
~    The goals are to:
~    Create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it.
~    Transform your relationship with your difficult thoughts and feelings, learn to perceive them as harmless, even if uncomfortable, transient psychological events.
~    Take effective action guided by your deepest values and in which you are fully present and engaged.
The Main Principles of ACT
~    ACT does not have symptom reduction as a goal.
~¬†¬† ¬†The ongoing attempt to get rid of ‚Äúsymptoms‚ÄĚ actually creates a clinical disorder
~    Private experience (feeling) is labeled a symptom 
~¬†¬† ¬†A ‚Äúsymptom‚ÄĚ is, by definition, something ‚Äúpathological‚ÄĚ and should be eliminated. ÔɆ
~    A struggle with the symptom.
~    Have you considered there might be a purpose for that symptom?

Changeable Variables in Context
~    Humans learn language (i.e., communication) through interactions with the environment
~¬†¬† ¬†You learned to call certain physical sensations ‚Äúanger,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúfear,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúsadness.‚ÄĚ
~    Emotions are a very natural way your body prompts you to do something
~    Focus on changeable variables in the context in which these events occur in order create general rules to predict and influence psychological events such as thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
~    Fear
~    In the presence of a snake
~    Before making a presentation

Experiential Avoidance

~¬†¬† ¬†The more time and energy we spend trying to avoid or get rid of unwanted private experiences (feelings), the more we are likely to suffer ‚ÄúQuicksand‚ÄĚ
~    Anxiety (Fear things won’t get better)
~    Anger (Frustration things aren’t getting better)
~¬†¬† ¬†Depression (Hopelessness and helplessness—resignation that things can‚Äôt get better)
Confronting the Agenda
~    Control is the Problem, Not the Solution
~    Clean Discomfort: When emotions and reactions are accepted, it leads to a natural level of physical and emotional discomfort
~¬†¬† ¬†Dirty Discomfort: Once you start struggling with it, your ‚Äústruggle switch is turned on‚ÄĚ and discomfort increases rapidly.
~¬†¬† ¬†Struggle switch is like an emotional amplifier‚ÄĒswitch it on, and you can have anger about your anxiety, anxiety about your anger, depression about your depression, or guilt about our guilt.

Stop Fighting with Your Feelings
It hasn’t worked before
It probably won’t work now.
Six Core Principles of ACT
~    Once the emotional control agenda is undermined, we then introduce the six core principles of ACT to help clients develop psychological flexibility:
~    Diffusion
~    Acceptance
~    Contact with the present moment
~    The Observing Self
~    Values
~    Committed action

The Observing Self
The Audience
~    Fly on the Wall / Data / Your Dog
~    Curious
~    Objective
~    Nonjudgmental

Mindful Contact with the Present Moment
Awareness of What Is
~    Bringing full awareness to your here-and-now experience
~    How do I feel?
~    What are my thoughts, wants and urges?
~    What physical sensations am I experiencing?
~¬†¬† ¬†Describe the environment‚ÄĒsmell, temperature, colors, objects, people, sounds, etc‚Ķ
~    I (see, hear, smell) ______ It reminds me of _____
~    Making room for unpleasant feelings, sensations, urges
~    Allowing them to come and go without running from them or giving them undue attention.
~    Unhooking: Thoughts/feelings don’t always lead to action
~    Identifying the problem
~    When we battle with our inner experience, it distracts and derails us.
~    Defining the problem
~    What you struggle against = barriers toward heading in the direction of your goals
Cognitive Diffusion
Unhooking Thoughts and Behaviors
~     Cognitive diffusion means
~¬†¬† ¬†‚ÄúStepping back‚ÄĚ and recognizing that thoughts are just transient private (subjective) events
~¬†¬† ¬†Perceiving thoughts, images, and memories as bits of language, and pictures‚ÄĒas opposed to what they can appear to be‚ÄĒthreatening events, objective truths (Example: Nightmares)
Cognitive Diffusion
Unhooking Thoughts and Behaviors
~    Here’s a simple exercise in cognitive diffusion:
~¬†¬† ¬†Think of a negative self-judgment that takes the form ‚ÄúI am X‚ÄĚ such as ‚ÄúI‚Äôm stupid.‚ÄĚ
~    Think about it. Believe it as much as you can.
~    Notice how it affects you.
~¬†¬† ¬†Now insert the phrase¬† ‚ÄúI‚Äôm having the thought that‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ in front of¬† ‚ÄúI am X.‚ÄĚ
~    Think about it.
~    Notice what happens.
Clarifying the Destination
Values & Goals
~¬†¬† ¬†A lack of clarity about values can underlie much of your distress or keep you ‚Äústuck.‚ÄĚ
~¬†¬† ¬†People‚Äôs opinions about ‚Äúaddicts.‚ÄĚ
~    Staying in an unhealthy relationship
~    The next step in the ACT process is:
~    Identifying motivating values
~¬†¬† ¬†‚ÄúChoosing a direction and establishing willingness to regain control of life, not necessarily just to control thoughts and feelings.‚ÄĚ
Clarifying the Destination
Values & Goals
~    Clarifying
~    Who is most important, deep in your heart?
~    Which people?
~    What do you want those relationships to be like?
~    What events, things, experiences are meaningful to you?
~¬†¬† ¬†Being ‚Äúsuccessful‚ÄĚ at work (by continuing to get raises and promotions)
~¬†¬† ¬†Being a ‚Äúgood‚ÄĚ parent (by raising children that are generally happy, healthy, independent and intelligent)
~    Owning a house
Clarifying cont…
~    Values
~    What values do I want to embody (Choose 5)?
Committed Action
~    Once you can:
~    Be in the present moment
~    Identify your thoughts, feelings and urges
~    Unhook your thoughts/urges and your behaviors
~    Clearly state what is important to you
~    Then…
~    Assess the situation
~    Decide
~    Is this thought or issue even worth my attention?  Will addressing it get me closer to my goals and values?
~    If it is, what thoughts and behaviors will be helpful at addressing the issue AND getting you closer to your goals?
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix
ACT Matrix‚Äď
Example: Do Something Embarrassing
ACT Matrix–Bullying
Shortcut Question
~    Are my current thoughts, feelings and actions moving me closer to, or further away from my goals and values.
~    Every event is an opportunity to choose thoughts and behaviors that will help you use your energy to move toward your goals and values
~    Acceptance means accepting, without judgement, how you feel and the situation as it is instead of fighting against it.
~    Commitment and purposeful action mean that you choose to use your energy on thoughts and behaviors that move you closer to your goals

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