How to get the most out of your ACT training

I saw a comment recently in an online forum saying that most ACT training doesn’t add value once you know the basics and it made me think of a couple of issues. This is certainly something I experienced in my development as an ACT therapist and required me to step out of my comfort zone to stretch myself. If you find yourself in this place, I’ve got three suggestions for you.

 

1. What kind of training do you need?

It’s important to consider what kind of training you actually need. Do you need to build general ACT process skills? Or do you need to know how to apply and adapt skills to particular areas?

ACT is an incredibly versatile therapeutic approach that focuses on common processes that can be applied to a wide range of mental health problems. Unlike other therapy approaches that rely on specific treatment protocols based on diagnosis, ACT identifies fundamental processes that can be used across various areas of human experience, including mental health, well-being, and human performance.

This means that ACT training workshops typically fall into two categories. The first type focuses on developing skills and applying specific ACT processes, such as psychological flexibility, acceptance skills, values clarification, or functional analysis. These workshops aim to equip individuals with a diverse set of abilities that can be used in different contexts.

The second type of workshop focuses on specific areas, problems, or issues, such as ACT for psychosis, anger, or OCD. Participants in these workshops often come with existing knowledge and skills related to the targeted problem area. Therefore, the training involves ensuring everyone has a shared understanding of the specific issue, including its history, causes, and ideology. The subsequent focus is on exploring how ACT processes and procedures can be effectively applied when working with individuals facing that particular problem.

A well-designed training session will emphasise the importance of adapting ACT processes to suit the unique needs of individuals and their specific context. For example, when working with individuals with psychosis, it is crucial to consider how mindfulness procedures can be applied to those experiencing auditory hallucinations. Similarly, it is important to exercise caution when using defusion techniques with individuals who hold strong delusions or beliefs, as standard diffusion procedures may not be appropriate.

2. Is it time to stretch yourself?

The second issue is that if you are finding training is not stretching you, it’s time to shake things up a bit. The two key ways to do this are select trainings that are at a more advanced level. For example, training sessions on RFT will push most people in terms of their learning. The other way is to get clinical supervision from an ACT expert who specialises with the kinds of clients you work with. They can then tailor the sessions to your specific needs and help you grow, develop and further your journey in using ACT. It’s also worth experiencing a range of different trainers to see how they apply the model in their unique way. There is almost always value in learning about different trainers’ experiences and their favourite tips and tricks so that you don’t always default into tried and tested methods. What works for some people won’t work for others so you need a breadth of experience and tools. Check out our expert tips for ACT from some of our workshop leaders.

3. Make the most of experiential practice opportunities

Experiential methods play a vital role in ACT training, offering numerous benefits that empower practitioners to deepen their understanding and application of this powerful therapeutic approach. One of the key advantages lies in the active engagement and participation required from participants. As the saying goes, “You get back what you put in,” and this rings true in experiential learning.

By actively engaging in exercises and hands-on activities, practitioners have the opportunity to embody the principles of ACT, allowing for a deeper integration of the concepts into their own practice. Experiential methods provide a platform for practitioners to personally experience the transformative potential of ACT techniques, enhancing their empathy and understanding when working with clients.

Moreover, experiential learning fosters a more dynamic and engaging training environment. It promotes active discussion, reflection, and collaboration among participants, allowing for the exchange of ideas, insights, and diverse perspectives. This interactive approach creates a rich and immersive learning experience, enhancing the retention and application of ACT principles in real-life therapeutic settings.

 

I hope this helps you get the most out of your training sessions!

Joe Oliver

CC founder

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