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Developing Psychological Flexibility

The goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is to increase psychological flexibility. In practice this means helping clients to contact the present moment more fully, and to engage or persist in behavior that serves valued ends (Hayes, 2006). The ‘core processes’ are taught to achieve these ends. They are not just seen as ways of counterbalancing psychological dysfunction, but as positive psychological skills suitable for anyone wishing to live a balanced life.

Developing Psychological Flexibility is a client information handout which can be used to familiarize clients with the ACT model. Two hexaflexes are presented, one with ‘core problems’ (top) and the other with ‘core processes’ (below). Both present the ACT problems and processes using simplified terminology. The ‘core problems’ hexaflex can be used to help clients to understand at which points they might be particularly ‘stuck’ or as a prompt for areas of exploration in therapy. The ‘core processes’ hexaflex can be used to teach clients key skills or to guide their integration of these skills into their lives.

The six problems and processes in ACT are:

  • Experiential avoidance where events, thoughts, and feelings are avoided. ACT teaches acceptance, ‘allowing’, and ‘willingness’
  • Cognitive fusion whereby an individual becomes ‘hooked in’ thoughts. ACT teaches cognitive defusion techniques to aid ‘unhooking’ from problematic thoughts
  • Dominance of the conceptualized past and feared future describes the propensity we have for our minds to ‘time travel’ to the past (rumination) and future (worry). ACT teaches mindfulness skills to help individuals contact the present moment
  • Attachment to the conceptualized self describes how we can see ourself as our thoughts. ACT teaches defusion where we can see thoughts as ‘just thoughts’
  • Lack of values clarity describes how problems can stem from becoming disconnected from what truly matters to us. Clarifying and then behaving in ways that are consistent with our values is a fundamental feature of ACT
  • Inaction, impulsivity, or avoidance persistence (rigidity) describe how problems can stem from doing too little overall, or not do enough of what matters to us. ACT encourages committed action in the service of our values

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Supervision tool – use to develop formulations and knowledge
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training
  • Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(1), 1-25.
  • Hayes, S. C. (2006). The six core processes of ACT. Retrieved from: https://contextualscience.org/the_six_core_processes_of_act

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