This script is taken from the ACT for Recovery – Group Intervention for Psychosis Manual (O’Donoghue, Oliver, Morris, Johns, Jolley & Butler, 2013).
In the groups, the metaphor, “Passengers on the Bus” is used throughout (see Hayes, Strosahl & Wilson, 1999 for a full description). As part of the groups, participants are encouraged to interact with the metaphor by acting it out. The following is the guidance provided in the manual. A full video demonstration of this can be seen here:
Set up of the exercise
Ask for volunteers:
One person to act as the driver
• Ask for a participant to volunteer an example of a difficult situation in which lots of “passengers” came to the front of the bus. Ask them to identify the main passengers and write each one on a post-it note and discuss the things that passenger would say to the driver.
One person to represent the valued direction
• Ask the volunteer to identify the valued direction that the passengers getting in the way of. Summarise this in one or two words on a large sheet of paper and ask for a volunteer to hold this, representing the volunteer’s valued direction.
Three to four volunteers to act as passengers.
• Ask the volunteers to play the role of the driver’s passengers. Provide them with a post-it note label with the label of their passenger and remind them of the kinds of things each passenger would say.
Hints for the exercise:
• Try to ensure clarity around values (defining values rather than goals).
• Tell people how long the exercise will last for, and for how long they’ll be in touch with the passengers.
• Be aware that number of people in the room may affect number of passengers on the bus.
• Due to the emotive nature of the task it may be useful to have the group come up with some ground rules about how to carry out the exercise. For example, make sure the statements from “passengers” are not too evocative and the driver feels safe.
• In terms of instructing passengers on what to say, be flexible and allow improvisation. It’s often more relevant if they come up with their own comments and actions.
Scenario 1 – Fight/Struggle
Have the driver pretend to be driving the bus (walking around the room with the passengers following) and respond by stopping to fight/struggle (responding to passengers, arguing with them). Ask driver to act out these responses whilst trying to drive the bus. Have the passengers behave like passengers (hassling, cajoling, pleading, distracting). Spend 2-4 minutes doing this.
Ask for feedback from driver of bus:
How was it to struggle with the passengers (leader can suggest that no matter how much arguing and fighting with the passengers you have, nothing changes / quality of ‘stuckness’). Ask the passengers how it felt – did they feel in control of the driver? Ask the person representing values how they felt – did they feel connected with or ignored?
Scenario 2 – Giving in
Ask the driver to again drive the bus; this time role playing ‘giving in’ to the passengers, trying to make peace with them by giving up on their valued direction. Spend 2-4 minutes doing this’.
Ask for feedback from driver of bus: How was it to give in to the passengers? What was it like to let go of the steering wheel? Reinforce the qualities of this: that it may feel better in the short-term but at the cost of important life areas, that it is being ‘stuck’ in another way. Ask the passengers how it felt – did they feel in control of the driver? Ask the values how they felt – did they feel connected with or ignored?
Scenario 3 – Willingness
Finally, ask the driver to practice a “willingness” response. Steering the bus in the direction of their values, with the passengers following behind, saying/doing the things that they usually say.
Ask for feedback from driver of bus: How was it to focus on your values and keep them in mind whilst the passengers were saying/doing all those things? Ask the passengers how it felt – did they still feel in control of the driver? Ask the values how they felt – did they feel connected with or ignored?
Ask participants how they found this exercise and compare and contrast the three parts: Fighting/struggling with passengers, giving in/resignation vs. just doing what you need to do. Pull out the differences between three situations – present moment focus, acceptance, defusion etc.