Common Barriers to Acceptance and the Art of Creative Hopelessness

Intermediate Level skills workshop

2.5 hours
Intermediate Level
Experienced ACT practitioners and clinicians

Course Description

You will have access to the recording for 6 months.

Have you ever had clients who were resistant to acceptance? Of course you have! Some people react negatively even to the word “acceptance”, mistaking it for “tolerance”, “giving in” or “putting up with it”. Others don’t see the point, or don’t understand how it can help, or are fearful their feelings will overwhelm them and they’ll lose control. Yet others hate their feelings so much, all they want from therapy is to make them go away. And some are already so cut off from their unwanted feelings, they are completely numb.

In this webinar we’ll look at the most common barriers to acceptance, and how to overcome them. And we’ll particularly focus on one of the trickiest, stickiest aspects of ACT: “creative hopelessness”.

“Creative hopelessness”: an umbrella term for numerous strategies designed to undermine experiential avoidance, and encourage letting go of the agenda of emotional control.

Have you ever avoided doing creative hopelessness (CH) because you feared screwing it up or upsetting the client? Or tried it and found it failed, or backfired, or the client “just didn’t get it”? Or maybe your client became confused, distressed or angry? Or perhaps you found yourself getting stuck or tongue-tied, trying hard to remember what comes next, or doing it in an awkward, clunky way?

If you’ve had such experiences, rest assured – you are not alone! CH is one of the stickiest, trickiest parts of ACT, and almost everyone has problems with it, initially. But tricky though it may be, it’s essential to master this part of ACT, if you aim to work effectively with clients high in experiential avoidance.

(If you’re not keen on the term CH, we don’t blame you! Russ says: “In my opinion, creative hopelessness is a terrible term ((please don’t tell Steve Hayes I said that)) and I much prefer the lesser-used term, ‘confronting the agenda’. However, neither of these terms are ideal; they both fail to convey the compassionate, gentle, understanding manner that needs to underpin this work, for it to be effective, validating, and motivating.”)

So, if you’ve tried CH and found it went badly, or upset the client, or just didn’t work too well; or if you’ve avoided CH because of fears about doing it wrong or upsetting the client, this webinar is for you.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • Common barriers to acceptance
  • Better words to use instead of “acceptance”
  • How to convey the concept of acceptance quickly and simply
  • How to link acceptance to important client goals, for motivation
  • How do we know if creative hopelessness (CH) is necessary, and when is the best time to do it?
  • The fundamentals of CH: empathy, validation and compassion
  • Six flexible steps for CH
  • Different tools, strategies and metaphors for CH
  • How to prevent invalidation or misunderstanding
  • The most common obstacles to CH – and how to overcome them
  • Being flexible and effective with your language
  • How to do CH conventionally, in about 20 to 25 minutes
  • How to do CH briefly, in 5 minutes or less
  • How to tell if CH is successful
  • After CH, what next?
  • What to do if clients fall back into the agenda of emotional control
  • Ultra-brief CH interventions for later sessions
  • What to do if a client reacts negatively
  • What to do if a client says they never try to avoid or get rid of their feelings
  • How to handle challenging comments like “But I HATE this feeling!”, “I’d rather die than feel this way”, “Are you telling me to give up?”, “Are you saying you can’t help me?”, “Are you telling me to just suck it up?”
  • And more!

Russ likes to include live demonstrations in his webinars  – so if you are willing to roleplay an extremely avoidant client who is clinging desperately to the need to control their emotions, please let us know.

Suitable for intermediate and advanced level. (Basic ACT knowledge is assumed).

Note: the webinar is supposed to last 2.5 hours, but sometimes Russ runs over, so please allow for 3 hours, just in case. (Of course, if he does run over but you can’t hang around, it’s not an issue; you can always watch the recording afterwards.)

If you have disability and require adjustments or accommodation, please email us at to discuss your needs and we will do our best to help you.

Common Barriers to Acceptance and the Art of Creative Hopelessness

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