What is ACT?

1.) What is ACT?
ACT is a process which aims to help people change their relationship to their thoughts, emotions, and sensations with flexibility, while engaged in valued behavior. What that means is that a person can take actions in spite of having feelings of anxiety or fear. We don’t try to get rid of or change thoughts and feelings: instead, we focus on what helps a person do the things that matter to them in life.  ACT shows us how our strategies in the past simply don’t help and offers experiential lessons in awareness, willingness, and action in order for us to change and do what really helps. You can also read about it here.

2.) How does it work?
ACT has a slightly different approach to its goal of improving the human condition: that pain and uncertainty is a part of everyday life and that the things we do to control and avoid pain are exactly the things that make it worse. ACT is about letting go of our self-judgments and useless thoughts and, instead, encourage behavior towards a life that is meaningful. Because it’s behavior based, there is a strong emphasis on looking at the things that people do and think that lead them down dead-end paths and away from what matters most. It doesn’t focus on questioning the validity of thoughts or trying to “think happy” – instead, you focus on what matters most to you in life and focus your actions on that. You learn to stop fighting with your feelings and trying to control everything that comes your way. You realize that if you’re willing to use your strengths, you are strong enough to withstand anything life throws at you.

3.) How have you used ACT to better yourself?
ACT helped me learn what really helps in life when I’m in pain or unsure. When I’m on an emotional roller coaster and it seems that every choice I have to make feels like the wrong one, ACT is the big, stabilizing anchor I need. I no longer feel the need to control an outcome, obsess over why this is happening to me in the first place, nor worry for hours on end about how can I do everything right. Feeling scared and anxious is no longer terrifying – it’s a natural part of life.

4.) How do you use it as a coach?
ACT is a precision tool to slice your thoughts and behavior down into tiny pieces where we can spread them out and look at them together to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s a matter of bringing awareness to unhelpful habits we have and changing them. Sometimes it’s a matter of seeing the futility of trying to change things we cannot change. And sometimes our lives can turn around suddenly when we get really clear on what we want out of our time on earth. What I do as a coach is sit down with you and move through each aspect of the process with you, taking into account your unique life situation, and help you to make those little changes that you just can’t see in yourself to make.

5.) What is your specific ACT experience?
I first started using ACT to help people with diabetes deal with the fears and anxieties that accompany that disease. I have Type 1 Diabetes myself, and you can see more details over at my DelphiDiabetesCoaching.com website. Through my coaching practice there, I got to talk to many people who were going through some of the most challenging and fear-invoking times in their lives.

I have already completely well over the 120 hours of ICF accredited coaching hours needed for professional training as a coach, and because I’m a lifelong learner (can I get paid to take classes?), I threw myself into ACT specific training.

I’ve attended:

  • Online training with Mentor Coach, Practice Ground, and ACT Training Online by Russ Harris.
  • Skype and peer to peer work with the ACT Peer Network.
  • One-on-one training with Timothy Gordon, MSW, RSW and Dr Rich Blonna
  • ACT Bootcamp Philadelphia
  • ACT Bootcamp Reno 2015

I’m also one of the administrators for the ACT – Based Coaching special interest group through the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, the “mother ship” for all things ACT (and then some).

What lights me up about behavior is that it takes the guesswork out of figuring out what’s going wrong. Due to it’s strong evolutionary science influence, it explains much of our behavior from a broad, contextual perspective that takes into account everything from our genes to our environment. It doesn’t require me to take a long past history, as everything in your past explains how you got to be where you are today. I can start from the moment we meet and start to sketch out your patterns of behavior and help you see which ones really help and which ones need to decrease. You can get a pretty detailed map quickly, which is why I offer a 6 week program.

I was a dog trainer for 13 years and after awhile, dogs became easy to train. It was the human end of the leash that became fascinating to me. Why could I so easily change animal behavior but humans were so hard? I knew it was due to language so I set out to find out how language acquisition and usage is used by the human mind and why does it sometimes seem more of a hinderance than a help?

I have the answer I was looking for and am excited to share it with you.