#CompassionActions CFT Workshop Draw

We’re giving away a free place to Professor Paul Gilbert’s upcoming Compassion Focused Therapy workshop, 12th – 14th November!

To enter, tell us about a compassionate action you’ve undertaken, for yourself or for someone else. Post your story on our twitter, facebook or instagram feed, using the hashtag, #CompassionActions. The most creative/ interesting/fun story (i.e. the one we like the best) will win a workshop place.

The winner will be announced on Friday the 27th of July.

Good Housekeeping Values Article

NOT LOST IN VALUES by Helena Colodro

IMG_3408Not lost in Values  – On lifelong skills training and comparison

I’ll begin with a confession: I can’t stop comparing the different ways of working between Spain and the UK, I can’t. I am even writing about it. I know I shouldn´t be letting this happens! But I must admit that I’ve been struggling with comparison over these past months.

If something useful comes out of all these long talks with my mind, it is that it has made me think about the type of person / therapist that I want to be and the type I don’t.

Among the many intangible things that I´m taking back with me, perhaps, the most valuable is to have been able to observe and learn from the qualities of the UK Psychology professionals whom I have shared some experience. But I´d like to focus on something that stands out above many other discoveries: the interest in lifelong skills learning these people seem to have. If I thought skills-building and professional development was something highly recommended, today I consider it to be mandatory.

The job of a psychologist requires big doses of personal work over the years. Let us be clear about it; a good therapist should be able to work and progress on certain issues prior to and in parallel with working with clients. I am not referring only to a perfectly structured and comprehensive University curriculum (we know a lot about never ending, lengthy and full of theory curricula in Spain). No, I mean a personal job-based training, focusing on self-knowledge, awareness of professional values and training in therapeutic skills (as a minimum). However, this is not always a must according to the legislation of each country, so each professional has to rely on their own ethical “headlights”, or “that thing called values” to become the therapist who wants to be beyond the minimum required.

I have enjoyed find out that the practice of therapist supervision is one of the many good habits of therapists (mostly ACT therapist) I have met in this country engage in. Unfortunately, this is not a widespread practice in my country (comparative framing hitting hard now!)

I am not blaming the Spanish therapists. The discussion deserves a more extensive reflection and we would have to look closely at the political interests and the educational system. Such as the predominance of an over-medicalised mental health model where clinical or counseling psychologists have no real place. Or overly lengthy and non-practical graduate and postgraduate studies. A big mess, I know…but, while we wait for all these issues to be fixed, we should be able to tackle this problem in a critical way from a minimum sense of rigor and individual responsibility. What happens when we become mental health professionals in the public or private spheres? Are we done with our training or are we willing to keep on studying and learning from others?  As I see it, this leads to a certain taboo and concealment of our own barriers and formative needs, so much so that we frequently cover them with a mixture of arrogance and ignorance that, seen from this perspective, is very sad and not particularly enriching.

IMG_3399Skills training, along with advances in the knowledge of therapeutic methodology from solid theoretical models, could be improved with the help of figures such as the clinical supervisor, either individually or within supervision groups. My brief but inspiring experience in “ACT SPACE” group, a London based peer supervision group, facilitated by Michael Sinclair (www.city-psychology.co.uk), Joe Oliver, Emily Griffiths, Emma O’Donoghue and John Boorman has been a great discovery that I really appreciate. I’ve learnt much from attending that could not be summarised in a single entry of this blog but will influence me in many reflections and changes in my practices from now on. Once in Spain, one of the first changes will be joining a solid supervision group and seeking an individual supervisor.

Since I began by confessing something, I’ll finish now with a wish – a call to learning, a defense of being supervised, of embracing our own vulnerability, of being able to contact what we may not like to be aware of, to let ourselves feel shame and embarrassment while training, to let us fail many times, so that only then we could do better with our clients in session. This leads to the recognition that therapy doesn’t place us on a plane of superiority over anyone, but of equivalence, mutual enrichment and a consciousness of what really matters.


LOST IN CONFERENCES (Lost in Translation, part 2) by Helena Colodro

I was lost in translation (well, I still am)  – what I didn’t know is that I was also going to be:



IMG-20170623-WA0042 - copia
Isabel Lopez Chicheri & Helena Colodro at Seville ACBS  Conference

Hello again! In my previous post I introduced myself and explained a little bit about what is bringing me to the UK this summer along with the first contacts with my own language barriers. Today I´d like to write why I´m enjoying so much participating in some cool and fulfilling  professional meetings that have certainly reinvigorated my passion for my work and for ACT.

My “trip” began attending the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science World Conference in Seville in June. This was a good opportunity to switch on to “ACT mode” and get to know other people’s work. This was the first time I attended an international ACT congress, everything was new to me, but the main things kept in my mind as highlights are these:

  • Big sense of community: Lot of different countries’ people united by Contextual Science. Professionals from around the world united around a basic and applied model, with a solid present and a promising future.
  • Values: I had the sense of everyone being committed psychologists willing to learn and be helpful to others. Speakers and attendants seemed so honest to me, I really could see they were trying to teach and share their knowledge but also some relevant personal experiences, which is not what I was used to when comparing with other non-ACT related conferences and professional meetings.
  • Processes: Such a beautiful pieces of therapist and client interactions/ demonstrations, along with subsequent analyses of the main processes involved in these therapeutic movements. This was so important for me and such a generous thing to do from those who let us see them performing either through videos or live.
  • Interesting emphasis on the basic model that supports the 3rd generation therapies: Relational Frames Theory. One of my aims was to update my knowledge about basic language and behavior mechanism and I felt that I achieved it. Well done! .
  • Few options for beginners at the conference: understanding RFT can be hard if there are no introductory theory workshops. Some initial ideas about how to deal with specific clinical situations could have been helpful too for those who are starting to approach ACT and want to know more about how they could use it at their own work settings.
  • Few options for advanced levels: If ACT professionals are mainly being trained through workshops and conferences, there should be also some advance skills/theory training within an international conference like this. I found some of the workshops a little bit broad and general for people who were quite fluent in ACT
  • Steve Hayes’ talk: Sometimes, when you attend workshops, magic happens. There are speakers that really raise our level of understanding and analysis, and Steve Hayes’ talk on why Science needs Contextual Science was a great example. I believe this is one of the greatest gifts you can get of a conference: to get to see beyond the known and lead you to new future challenges or new relationships between constructs with wider perspectives.
  • Being an observer of FAP processes at Bob Kohlenberg & Mavis Tsai conference: the importance of therapeutic relationships and interactions to validate, to model, point out and influence client behavior through observation and identification of clinically relevant behavior’s. How to identify a difficult situation and use it for the benefit of therapy instead of avoiding it for the relief of the therapist. (https://functionalanalyticpsychotherapy.com/)
  • The moment I realised how I lucky I was when I found out that the colleague I was going to spend the two following months with (Joe Oliver) was such a skilled and smart clinician and trainer. Joe Oliver and Eric Morris presented their work on psychosis and the way they did it has really changed something about the way I want to do presentations from now on (thanks guys!). Cool reflections and further discussions on significant aspects in an animated and funny way. All trainings should be like this!
  • “American style”. Do any American colleagues share the feeling that there was a large predominantly American character conference rather than international? This is making me think a lot about the power structures and the historical hierarchy of the system, maybe this would need to get some further attention in following post. Hopefully, professionals from Asia, Europe or South America among others, will soon take a step forward and show more of their work and projects to increase the conference’s diversity and be even more representative.

In July, I was invited to join Joe Oliver to one of the places where he was going to talk about ACT and RFT. That was at the British Psychology Society DCP East of England Conference  in Cambridge and it sounded so good to me! Combining learning and travel is one of my favorite ways of spending a day (and a life). I´d never been to Cambridge and was also a great day for knowing the therapist´s work in the UK.

Girton College, Cambridge
Girton College, Cambridge

Again, many people from different backgrounds, working in NHS settings, got together within a proper Cambridge college : ) – listening and discussing concepts such as acceptance, compassion and the foundations of behavior and language from an ACT / RTF perspective.

It was so nice to observe myself there, noticing and experiencing my own communication and understanding limits and barriers, trying to absorb everything that was being said.  When I felt I had lost the track, I enjoyed being aware of something I just loved: the way British people act in terms of social behavior and respect between them (rules, times, speaking turns, tone of voice when speaking, use of language, calm when talking and when moving…). If only I could just bring all that to my work settings in Spain – it would be very significant for me and a big and better change to start with. I´ll just give a try to some changes in the way I do active listening in meetings and sessions (big challenge for me!) and I´ll improve my tasks and appointments organization techniques, these two things are core skills on a psychologist work and people here is doing really well.

It was a big comfort for me too to get to speak with other colleagues in Cambridge who, like me, are feeling drained and exhausted sometimes after having worked as therapist for a while. Feelings of not being strong enough to manage this job have been one of the disturbing and quite secret thoughts I have had in the last year. But when we were working in groups, there was such an open and honest vibe that I decided I wanted to share this openly and without shame.  I talked about how I am genuinely feeling being a therapist sometimes. It is funny that I had to come to the UK to talk about me, my struggles, and be able not to get some rejection comments back, telling me I should know already how not to have these fears and feelings anymore. Discovering that many of us are feeling the same too AND we are still working, learning, and helping others has put me closer to this country and what I am learning from its people.


Me in Manchester
Me in Manchester

The BACBP Conference in Manchester has been the 3rd Conference I have attended so far, can’t complain at all. Joe Oliver and Richard Bennett had some workshops there and I went to see what they had prepared.

This time the topic was VALUES and the way therapists could use them to work with their clients. I am familiar with the values issue but I was still interested in seeing what new material this conference could bring, and, yes, one more time: surprise!.  When I thought I was just there to, maybe, learn some more nice theory about values, what I got went further than this. One of the main features of training I am enjoying and realizing is how important it is that there is a smart mix of theory, persona lexperiences thought guided exercises and, after that, accurate and practical tips and exercises for clinical work with patients. This is exactly what all those lot of people who attended the class got from the workshop. No single part of the workshop could work without the other, so, again, value learning for me that needs to be remembered when designing trainings: theory, personal exercises and client exercises. Although these three aspects may not be enough to create a good talk or training, since the personal characteristics and skills of the communicators were excellent too. I feel so envious…

In the following post I will go deepen in the values that I am finding more relevant in psychologists. All these experiences (conferences, meetings, talks, etc) have really made me see the core importance of embracing some ways of approaching my work and business and I don´t want to miss all this reflections now that I just have been able to see, with some perspective, some keys points about who I am and who I want to be as a psychologist.

See you soon then!