2019 Conference Abstracts

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2019 Conference Abstracts

In alphabetical order by title

C-D | E-F | I-JN-P |R-S T | U-W | X-Z

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for tuberculosis treatment adherence


Paul H. Mason, Puneet Singh,  Juan F. Dominguez Duque


Despite the availability of an effective antimicrobial treatment, tuberculosis (TB) outranks HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of mortality from an infectious disease worldwide. In order to achieve WHO targets of TB elimination by 2050, targeted interventions are needed to improve health-seeking behaviour, like healthy lifestyle that can be done with supplements from this Ultra Omega Burn review. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has been shown to be an effective intervention to improve treatment adherence among people being treated for

infectious diseases and chronic illnesses. ACT has the potential to improve self-management of medication adherence, overcome barriers associated with treatment nonadherence, and reduce levels of stigma. In this poster presentation, we present psychometric data on stigma, health communication, treatment adherence and support-seeking among 100 people treated for TB in Vietnam. Our findings demonstrate the need for a targeted intervention to support vulnerable patient populations and bolster treatment adherence.

ACT to improve relationships

1.25 hr Workshop

Avigail Lev

This workshop presents an innovative approach that integrates Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Schema Therapy to improve relationships and interpersonal dynamics. The workshop will demonstrate how to utilize an acceptance and mindfulness-based approach to treat schema-driven relationship problems. This unique approach uses core beliefs to identify clients’ interpersonal patterns and can be applied with individuals, couples, groups, and within the therapeutic relationship.

An acceptance-based approach to working with schema-driven interpersonal problems is based on the notion that negative interpersonal schemas are a part of an individual’s conditioning and are an unavoidable pain in relationships. Most individuals have one or more of these core beliefs, and these will inevitably get activated in relationships.

Schema pain drives individuals into pain avoidance strategies such as clinging, criticizing, demanding, or withdrawing. These experiential avoidance strategies create a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues to maintain and reinforce the schema and lead to secondary pain. These avoidance behaviors are the target of treatment. Treatment process drawn from the hexaflex will be adapted to treat unworkable behaviors in relationships. The workshop will provide a conceptual framework, experiential exercises, and role-plays to help participants apply the ACT model to strengthen relationships.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Identify 10 maladaptive schemas and schema coping behaviors that drive interpersonal problems.
  2. Clarify values-based actions in relationships.
  3. Apply the core ACT processes to work with barriers to values-based actions.

Nature: Clinical

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced)

ACTivating Recovery in Public Mental Health


Lisa Soares, Carl Zabel, Megan Harrison, Loida Dimapilis-Kanniah

There is significant investment across NWMH in the research, training and clinical application of therapies underpinned by Contextual Behavioural Science (CBS), which share some theoretical and philosophical assumptions and goals that significantly match the Recovery-centred approach. This symposium aims to highlight the efforts of the ACTivating Recovery Program, the first of its kind in Public Mental Health, in;

  1. Providing a central coordinating function that oversees all activities relevant to treatment, training and research in the CBS field
  2. Positioning NWMH as a leader in the field of CBS in Public Mental Health, and
  3. Supporting evidence-based and recovery oriented practice through ongoing learning, training and research, thereby achieving better outcomes for consumers, their families, carers and communities

Paper 1: The ACTivating Recovery Program

Dr Lisa Soares & Dr Carl Zabel

This paper aims to present the work undertaken over the past year by the ACTivating Recovery Program, a newly created Public Mental Health initiative, focusing on the systematic inclusion of ACT in the planning and delivery of services via three pillars – Training, Treatment and Research & Development. It will present how the program was initially created; its vision, values and mission, as well as the outcomes achieved to date.

Paper 2: We-ACT: A Group Program for Eating Disorders in an Outpatient setting

Loida Dimapilis-Kanniah & Dr Lisa Soares

This paper aims to discuss the initial implementation of the We-ACT group program, designed for the treatment of Eating Disorders. It will explore the outcomes of the initial pilot program and delivered as part of the Day Patient Program for those suffering with severe eating disorders.

 Paper 3: Wise Choices – From where we have been to where we are going!

Sheran Kay, Megan Harrison & Robert Bruno

This paper aims to explore the implementation of the Wise Choices Group program within a public mental health setting. Now running for over two years, the authors will discuss how the group was formed, the barriers to implementation as well as the lessons learned along the way.

Nature: Clinical and Community

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced)

An evaluation of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy group program for people on the autism spectrum with insomnia


Eric Morris, Lauren Lawson and Amanda Richdale

 Insomnia is a common problem for autistic adults, and is associated with comorbid anxiety, depression, and challenges in occupational functioning. This paper will describe the results of a pilot investigation of an ACT group program designed to help adults on the autism spectrum experiencing insomnia.

While there is a small body of evidence supporting parent training and CBT for anxiety in autistic children and adolescents, empirically-supported psychological interventions are lacking for adults. Anecdotal evidence suggests that autistic adults do not like CBT techniques such as cognitive restructuring (which may be difficult due to intrinsic social-cognitive difficulties). However, a small number of studies show that mindfulness/ACT can effectively address mental health difficulties for autistic adults.

We will describe the components of a group program for autistic adults with insomnia that combines sleep hygiene principles with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, program acceptability, and participant -reported (insomnia and mental health) and objective outcomes (actigraphy).



Connecting Women’s Voices: Supporting each other with Pro-Social Committed Action within the ACBS Community and Beyond An experiential workshop for women

Two  Workshops

Giselle Bahr, Neili Martin, Tiffany Rochester and Toni Hanna

This two part experiential workshop offers women an opportunity to explore how and when we use our voices, and how to support and amplify women’s voices. We’ll connect with each other about what excites and inspires us within (and outside) ACBS. And increase women’s participation in and contribution to our ACBS community, and our sharing of this in our worlds.

Part 1: exploring our barriers to standing up and speaking out. We’ll build connections with each other and investigate the fears, reservations and constraints that limit our individual and collective voices being heard. And identify committed actions we can carry into the conference.

Part 2: sharing and reflecting on our conference experiences. How were we inspired? When did we listen, participate, stand up, speak out? We’ll develop committed actions to take to our lives beyond the conference: to share, risk, amplify, notice, support or present.

Learning outcomes:
1. Enable women to explore our voices and when we choose to use them.
2. Support women to connect with each other about what inspires us within (and outside) the ACBS community.
3. Encourage women to stand with and amplify other women’s voices.
4. Increase women’s participation in and contribution to our (ANZ)ACBS community, and our sharing of this in our worlds.

Nature: Community

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced)

Developing systems and societies that are prosocial, polycentrically governed, and technologically innovative.


Dr Robert Styles

This workshop introduces a multidisciplinary approach to organisational development grounded in contextual behavioural science and systems engineering taken by Dr Robert Styles & colleagues at the Australian National University. To date this work has effectively guided private, public and third sector players across Australasia, Africa and South East & West Asia through the processes of developing and implementing innovative policy and practices for doing business that subsequently impacted the socio-economic and environmental issues confronting their and our collective wellbeing. In practice, these organisations were equipped with the tools for designing systems and developing prosocial organisational climates that more reliably sustained coordinated long-term effort toward valued ends.

In this workshop you will be introduced to the framework that comprises this approach: three structured and facilitated reflections that occur over six to eight months complemented with executive coaching and action learning designed to reinforce and embed desired change operationally. Essentially, these are tools for exercising psychological flexibility and taking choices for action toward things that fundamentally matter in the long-run at each level in the system. The aim is for intentional and positive change within their life, close relationships, their work with others, and their future.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Understand how to apply RFT principles can be applied in a professional development context.
  2. Review three facilitated phases for organisation/community capacity building.
  3. Field questions that are of interest to the forum.

Nature: Research and Workplace

Target: Intermediate to advanced

Driving your therapy in creative directions: developing metaphor with clients


Ben Sedley

Metaphor can help clients to develop new perspectives about their suffering and ways they can respond to their experiences. This workshop will review the principles of clinical Relational Frame Theory that can be used to collaboratively derive more meaningful and effective active metaphor. The principles will also be demonstrated in role play and participants will have the opportunity to practice these skills.

Learning outcomes:

  • Understand how the use of metaphor can sharpen clinical practice
  • Practice ways to make metaphor more present, active and experiential

Nature: Clinical

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced)

From Self-Critical Self to Compassionate Self: Using Self-Practice/Self-Reflection (SP/SR) to Create New Ways of Being


Prof James Bennett-Levy

From Critical Self to Compassionate Self is a self-practice/self-reflection (SP/SR) workshop for therapists to experience for themselves therapeutic strategies drawn from compassion focused therapy (Gilbert, 2010; 2017) and the strengths-based Ways of Being model (Bennett-Levy et al., 2015). In this workshop, participants will engage with and formulate their critical self; then move on to creating new or desired ways of being that foreground their compassionate self. The workshop will provide an experiential understanding of some basic concepts from CFT and some of the ideas underpinning the Ways of Being model. It will also enable participants to engage with the SP/SR approach, reflecting not only on their ‘personal self’, but also the implications for their ‘therapist self’ (Bennett-Levy & Finlay-Jones, 2018; Bennett-Levy, 2019).

Learning outcomes:

  1. Participants will gain an experiential understanding of aspects of the CFT model and the Ways of Being model
  2. Participants will experience a form of personal practice, SP/SR, which has a developing evidence-base – and a soon-to-be published SP/SR ACT book (Tirch et al., 2019).
  3. Participants may gain the confidence and motivation to explore these strategies further – for themselves and for their clients.

Nature: Clinical and self-experiential

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced)

Function over form: using CBS and ACT to incorporate process into healthcare and social systems which focus on symptoms, outcomes and risk management. How can functional contextual perspectives shape current practices?

Panel discussion

Emma Caruana, Daniel Simsion, Eric Morris, Lisa Soares, Emily Sandoz, Kelly Wilson and Rob Purssey

Contextual behavioural practitioners and researchers can often find themselves in organisations in which significant barriers exist to adopting a CBS approach. These barriers can include entrenched organisational philosophies (such as an expectation to use a particular ‘brand’ of therapy; or working within a ‘medical model’, using diagnosis), as well as particular expectations associated with roles (such as a need to focus on ongoing risk management). This panel will explore the possibilities and challenges of being process-minded within existing systems, drawing upon experience from early career to senior clinicians and managers/supervisors, who work across public mental health, forensic mental health, private practice and academic settings. Talking points will include what a process-informed system might look like, and how clinicians can shape existing systems to be more functional contextual in perspective. Furthermore, the challenges of shaping existing systems, and how process-driven practice fits (or does not) with organisational philosophies and clinical expectations will be explored.

Learning outcomes:

  • Critical evaluation of current systems and organizational structures
  • How to incorporate CBS and ACT principles into existing systems and structures
  • How to bring a functional perspective into everyday practice

Nature: Clinical, Community, Research, Organisational

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced); in particular practitioners and researchers working in organisations

“I wouldn’t trust the body to get through the night with diabetes”: A qualitative study of parents with a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes


Sara Boucher, Grace Macaulay, Barbara Galland and Ben Wheeler

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is one of the most common chronic illnesses in childhood. Parents of children with T1DM assume much responsibility for diabetes care, especially during the night. This qualitative study explored night-time diabetes caregiving burden, parental sleep, and acceptable support strategies.

Purposive sampling was used to identify 10 mothers and 10 fathers of children up to 18 years of age with T1DM living in Otago/Southland, New Zealand. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or online (via ZoomTM). Content analysis was used to code transcribed interviews and develop categories.

Parents reported nocturnal glucose monitoring (NGM) contributed to inadequate and disrupted sleep, with frequency of checks often exceeding recommendations. Key drivers for NGM were 1) to optimise glycaemic control for their child’s health and 2) in response to fear of hypoglycaemia. Poor sleep contributed to headaches, poor concentration, irritability, poorer work performance and strained relationships. Diabetes technology was the most widely accepted support for both reducing diabetes burden and improving parental sleep. Interestingly, no parent suggested psychological support.

Parents may benefit from reducing unnecessary night-time glucose monitoring. While not a proposed intervention in this sample, learning skills to cope with fear of hypoglycaemia may be beneficial.


Parenting tricky kids with acceptance, compassion and delight


Jodie Wassner

This practical workshop will focus on intervention with parents to assist them in managing children with greater compassion, leading to improved emotion regulation and behavioural outcomes. Using the ACT model, the workshop will focus on modelling language that encompasses high levels of acceptance for the inner experiences of parents and their children.

Compassion-focused therapy will be utilised to guide parents towards incorporating compassion as an active variable in their parenting. Children with anxiety, oppositional behaviour, autism spectrum conditions and attention deficits will be at the centre of discussion.

Learning outcomes:

To assist practitioners to work with parents of kids with anxiety, ASD, ADHD and ODD. In particular:

  • Training parents in the use of acceptance-based language when communicating with children
  • Introducing parents to compassion focused ACT as a total underlay to general parenting.
  • Assisting parents to recognise the function of a child’s difficult behaviour, to enable better outcomes.
  • Helping parents to recognise how neurodiversity impacts behaviour as well as the likelihood of successful responses.

Nature: Clinical

Target: All levels (beginner / intermediate / advanced) It is designed to assist practitioners to work with parents who presumably have a beginner level of understanding but a clinician’s expertise will determine how it is delivered.

Perfectionism from a Contextual Perspective: Supporting healthy striving and flexible responding


Jennifer Kemp

Researchers have been exploring perfectionism as a multi-dimensional personality construct for decades, with a particular focus on its measurement and relationship with mental health disorders. Yet perfectionism within behavioural framework remains an area largely unexplored. Perfectionism is a trans-diagnostic process that can maintain and exacerbate many common mental health and interpersonal problems. As such, therapists can target specific perfectionistic processes in order to improve mental and physical health, facilitate wellbeing and support goal attainment.

This workshop will present a functional contextual behavioural formulation of perfectionism, and explore how it affects clients’ engagement in therapy and therapeutic outcomes. We will further examine treatment strategies that can unhook our clients from unhelpful perfectionistic responding and build flexibility and compassion. Finally, the session will explore how therapists’ own perfectionistic behaviours can influence the therapeutic process, providing opportunity for participants to reflect on their own helpful and unhelpful patterns of responding as a therapist.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Present a functional contextual behavioural formulation for perfectionism
  2. Explore treatment options for addressing perfectionistic responding to support thriving, and address problematic behavioural patterns
  3. Provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on their own perfectionistic responding and how this can influence the therapeutic process.

Nature: Clinical

Target: Intermediate / Advanced

Promoting positive body image: Developing a more adaptive and workable relationship between body and self


Geetanjali Basarkod (Chair), Dr Emily Sandoz (Discussant), Dr Ryan Kaplan and Dr Kristen Murray

Body image concerns are typically associated with a range of negative outcomes such as diminished mental health and well-being. To examine adaptive ways of relating to our bodies that may help mitigate these negative outcomes, this symposium presents three talks that unite research and clinical practice. First, statistical evidence for the distinction between body image dissatisfaction and psychological flexibility is provided, suggesting that the way individuals interact with their body image concerns, in addition to having these concerns, is relevant for mental health outcomes. Second, the constructs of shame and social cognition are examined in individuals with body dysmorphic disorder and the efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in helping such populations is discussed. The final presentation focuses on functional body image – our relationship with what our body does – and how this may play a protective role in determining outcomes related to health and well-being.

Learning objectives:

1. Learn about a method to abbreviate questionnaires and understand the psychometric distinction between body image dissatisfaction and psychological flexibility.

2. Learn how ACT principles can help address the link between shame, social cognition, and behaviour in individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

3. Understand functional body image and its role in health and well-being

Paper 1: Body Image – Acceptance and Action Questionnaire – 5: An abbreviation of the BI-AAQ and an examination of the link between body image dissatisfaction and psychological flexibility  

Geetanjali Basarkod

Individuals who exhibit psychological flexibility can remain committed to their valued goals despite being dissatisfied with their bodies. This flexibility is frequently measured by the Body Image–Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (BI-AAQ). The present study abbreviates the BI-AAQ using a method based on genetic algorithms, in two independent American samples (N1=538, 71.5% female, Age: M = 40.87, SD = 13.5; N2= 762, 44.6% female, Age: M = 40.65, SD = 13.06). Results indicate that a 5-item short form performed comparably to the long form in terms of factor structure and construct validity. Further, analyses using structural equation modeling showed that body image psychological flexibility was uniquely associated with theoretically-relevant criterion variables (i.e., stigma, internalisation of societal norms, self-compassion, and mental health), even when controlling for the highly-related construct of body image dissatisfaction. These findings lend support to the discriminant validity of body image psychological flexibility, as measured by either the long or the short-form of the BI-AAQ.

Paper 2: Shame and socio-emotional biases in body dysmorphic disorder and high body image concern 

Dr Ryan Kaplan

Body dysmorphic disorder and other clinical body image issues are typically underscored by a deep and pervasive sense of shame, which negatively impacts upon social cognition–the way in which people experience, interpret and make sense of the socio-emotional cues in their environment. In this talk, an overview of the research literature to do with social cognition in body dysmorphic disorder will be presented, and results from a study examining socio-emotional interpretative biases in people with high body image concern will be discussed, with a particular focus on the interrelationship between shame, social cognition, and behaviour. This will be followed by a discussion of how principles of acceptance and commitment therapy may be used to address shame in such clinical presentations, and the importance of considering shame when developing clinical formulations for patients with body image issues.

Paper 3: Functional body image as an emerging consideration in health and well-being 

Dr Kristen Murray

Body image is a complex multidimensional construct, with the majority of research focused on the appearance domain. In contrast, our relationship with what our body does – or functional body image – has received comparatively less attention. This presentation will review research focused on functional body image and its potential protective influence in health and well-being. Recent research studies examining the construct will be presented, including an online self-report survey in 498 adults aged 18 to 74 years (n=249 males and n=249 females) exploring functional satisfaction, investment and appreciation. Results highlight relationships with measures of intuitive eating, perceived health status, depressive symptoms and self-esteem, with sociodemographic differences across gender and body mass index (BMI). They support the need for additional research focused on conceptualising and measuring functional body image and associated outcomes, to inform interventions promoting positive body image and health in a range of populations.

Paper 4: Body Image Flexibility as a Coping Response: Experiences of  Australian Youth


Anna Brichacek

Applying psychological flexibility to the domain of body image can help to clarify how individuals relate to body image thoughts and feelings; however, there is limited understanding of body image flexibility in youth. Semi-structured interviews explored young people’s experiences of coping with body image threats to determine whether body image flexibility – that is, the ability to experience body-related content openly and non-judgementally and act in line with personal values – was identified and described as part of the coping response. Thematic analysis of data from 27 young people (12 male and 15 female) aged 12 to 24 years revealed that participants had difficulty describing how they managed body image thoughts and feelings; however, body image flexibility processes could be inferred through reported behavioural responses. Themes representing mechanisms through which body image flexibility may facilitate adaptive coping were identified and can inform future research on implementing contextual behavioural therapeutic approaches with youth.

Nature: Clinical

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

Randomised Controlled Trial of a Web-Based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Program to Promote Mental Health Skills in University Students


Shelley Viskovich and Kenneth Pakenham

This study evaluated a web-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) mental health promotion program called YOLO (You Only Live Once) for university students. A total of 1,162 participants were randomised to intervention (n = 596) or waitlist control (n = 566). Primary outcomes measured were depression, anxiety, stress, well-being, self-compassion, life satisfaction, and academic performance, and ACT processes acceptance, cognitive fusion, education values, valued living, and present moment awareness. Assessments were completed at pre- and post-intervention and at 12-week follow-up for intervention participants and the same pre – post interval for waitlist control participants. Results indicated significant improvements from pre- to post-intervention compared to waitlist control on primary outcomes depression, anxiety, stress, well-being, self-compassion, life satisfaction, and academic performance, and on all ACT processes. All intervention gains were maintained at follow-up. Improvements on all the primary outcomes were mediated by three or more ACT processes. Analyses indicated intervention completion was influenced by levels of depression, anxiety, self-compassion, and academic performance. Intervention effects were consistent on all primary outcomes and ACT processes across both sample groupings. Findings provide support for a web-based ACT mental health promotion program for university students.

Self-compassion in Compassion-Focused Therapy and ACT

Mixed research and presentation (TBC)

Tony Torney, Catherine McEniry,  James Bennett-Levy, Russ Harris, Alison Christie (Discussant)

In recent years, self-compassion has been identified as a powerful process of therapeutic change and an antidote to shame, self-loathing and self-criticism. Self-compassion is a key component in interventions such as Compassion-focussed therapy (CFT) and Mindful Self Compassion, and in recent years, has been commonly included in ACT  interventions, protocols and texts. This symposium contains three presentations on compassion-based interventions – one developed and adapted for rural men experiencing depression and another adapted for Aboriginal clients. Russ Harris will then present his model of how self-compassion that can be integrated into ACT interventions through ‘six building blocks’. The presenters will then discuss the development and adaptation of compassion-focused interventions.


Paper 1: Making western psychotherapy relevant for Aboriginal clients: From culturally adapted to community inspired compassion focused therapy

Prof James Bennett-Levy, Natalie Roxburgh & Stacey Edwards

Enhancing social and emotional wellbeing is a key priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, past history and current social determinants have meant that our Indigenous peoples continue to experience high levels of psychological distress, often underpinned by harsh self-criticism and shame.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) was developed in the UK in the early 2000s for clients where high levels of shame and self-criticism were preventing conventional therapies from working. Recognising CFT’s potential value for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, we used a ground-up, community participatory action approach to co-develop a culturally adapted CFT approach.During the one-year pilot project we hit a wall, needing to re-think our approach. As a result, the form and content of the program changed considerably. ‘Culturally adapted’ group-CFT gave way to a ‘community-inspired arts-based’ CFT. With the changes to the program, participants’ experiences of the groups also shifted: from initial ambivalence to a highly positive experience.

We conclude that partnership with community, active consultation, careful listening and high levels of flexibility and are fundamental to developing wellbeing initiatives that are a ‘cultural fit’. Arts-based CFT seems a promising approach for Aboriginal clients where shame and high levels of self-criticism are salient factors.

Paper 2: Compassion focused group therapy with rural based men experiencing depression

Tony Torney and Catherine McEniry

The purpose of the research was to explore the efficacy of a specifically designed compassion-focused intervention for rural-based men experiencing depression as measured by both a standard clinical measure of depression and a specific measure of depression symptomology experienced by men. The intervention was informed by compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and compassion mind training (CMT) (Gilbert, 2010).

It was expected that the program would encourage participants to reflect on the role of emotions and the impact of negative emotions and self-criticism on well-being in the context of the theoretical underpinnings of CFT and develop skills in compassion as an emotional regulation technique and cognitive reframing.

Presentation: The Six “Building Blocks” of Compassion: An ACT Approach

Dr Russ Harris

ACT never labels or judges specific values as ‘right’ or ‘correct’ or ‘superior’. However, there is one value that infuses every aspect of the ACT model: compassion. In recent years, we’ve seen compassion and self-compassion feature ever more prominently in ACT textbooks, self-help books, research and protocols. However, as of yet there is no formal consensus in ACT on how to define it and teach it. Russ will take you both theoretically and experientially through the six “building blocks” of compassion, as described in his forthcoming second edition of ACT Made Simple.

Nature: Research, Clinical and Community

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

SHAPE in Action


Linda Nicholson and Eric Morris

Clinical supervision plays an integral role in the training and continuing development of practitioners, providing a practice context for didactic and experiential learning. Experiential learning is strengthened by including supervision elements that promote psychological flexibility which we argue can help practitioners develop sensitivity and flexibility in applying knowledge and skills in effective and safe ways for clients.

Drawing upon Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and contextual behavioural science, we will present a contextual framework (SHAPE: Morris & Bilich-Eric, 2017) and provide participants with an introduction and hands on approach to building supervisee psychological flexibility and learning based on contemporary behavioural principles. The SHAPE framework identifies five features of supervision: Supervision values; Holding stories lightly; Assessment of function; Perspective-taking; Experiential methods. We will utilise experiential demonstrations, role-plays and didactic presentation to engage participants in learning about contextual supervision and how to promote psychological flexibility in supervision.

At the end of this workshop participants:
1) Will be able to describe a contextual supervision framework that promotes flexibility and functional perspectives
2) Will be able to practise experientially responding to supervision scenarios involving contracting, functional analysis, and perspective-taking.

Nature: Clinical / Community

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

Should ACT (and other) therapists be practicing what they preach? Towards an understanding of the role of personal practice in therapist skill development


Prof James Bennett-Levy

For over 100 years, personal therapy has been a core part of therapist training and skill development in some schools of therapy, but not others. However, its inclusion has largely been a matter of tradition and belief. Since the turn of the century, a new landscape of personal practices has emerged: for example, meditation-based programs for therapists and therapy self-practice/self-reflection (SP/SR) programs. Bringing together empirical research on SP/SR programs, meditation programs and personal therapy, we can now ask a broader set of questions about personal practice such as: Is personal practice of value for therapists – or not? What kind of role might it play in enhancing therapist effectiveness and client outcomes? This paper describes a model of personal practice derived from empirical findings and theories of therapist skill development (Bennett-Levy & Finlay-Jones, 2018) and builds the case for the importance of personal practice in enhancing therapist effectiveness (Bennett-Levy, 2018).


 Tailoring Interventions With Precision – a practical introduction to the flexible use of functional assessment and case conceptualisation within any third wave behavioural model


Brendon Knott

The ability to engage in functional behavioural assessment and case conceptualisation is core to all third wave behaviour therapies. However, these skills are rarely taught in Psychology training programs, and practical accounts of how to engage in functional conceptualisation in adult psychotherapy are surprisingly difficult to find in the literature. Training workshops for third wave therapies often assume that clinicians are already familiar with functional thinking, and tend to focus on the model being trained rather than the underlying skills of functional assessment. For the generalist clinician working with a broad range of presenting issues in public or private mental health settings, there are few practical guidelines for the flexible use of functional assessment in day-to-day outpatient clinical work. This workshop will provide clinicians with an introduction to the core elements of functional behavioural assessment and case conceptualisation, and demonstrate practical skills for applying these processes to a range of real-world presenting issues. As these skills are core to all third wave therapies, the workshop will be of relevance not only to ACT therapists, but also to practitioners of DBT, FAP, BA and other contextual models. The central goal of this clinically-focused workshop is to assist participants to ‘think functionally’ in the therapy room. 

Learning outcomes:

1) Review the basic philosophical and behavioural principles that underlie functional assessment and case conceptualisation

2) Learn about the essential components of functional assessment, and how to apply these components to out-of-session as well as in-session behaviour

3) To practice active learning of functional assessment skills by direct observation of clinical vignettes

Nature: Clinical

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

The ACT of Self Forgiveness: and the adult experience of Adverse Childhood Events

1.25 hr workshop

Grant Dewar, Peter Strelan and Paul Delfabbro

Self-forgiveness has been demonstrated to be beneficial for both psychological and social wellbeing. RFT and ACT reveals that language in and of itself creates suffering and attendant struggle with burdens of shame, guilt, remorse, and regret. Research into Adverse Childhood Events
indicates that high rates of Morbidity and Mortality in adults – with the loss of up to 20 years of possible life years are associated with the experience of adverse events. Such events create a context which self-blame may flourish, leading to self-loathing and self-disgust. This provides a necessity for effective therapeutic responses including self-forgiveness in context.
This workshop provides an experiential approach to self-forgiveness focused on intrapersonal transgressions in the context of unworkable responses to life events. The approach describes seven principles which include: identification of the burden; a transcendent perspective; personal values and transgressions; ACT therapeutic responses; granting self-forgiveness; putting values into action; making an ongoing commitment to self-forgiveness.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. To provide a basic introduction to: Adverse Childhood Events , the ACE International Questionnaire and to identify the Importance of ACE to Morbidity and Mortality.
  2. Analyze a novel approach to self-forgiveness focused on intrapersonal transgressions against the self and apply this to client populations which may be beneficial recipients of targeted therapy for ACE
  3. Describe the therapeutic approach and its seven principles of self forgiveness

Nature: Clinical

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

The Development of a Program to Improve Psychological Wellbeing for Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Madeleine Dober

Individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) suffer high rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is only efficacious in the short-term, while third-wave behaviour therapies like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are yet to be explored in IBD. The acceptance-based principles of ACT may be particularly applicable to managing the unique concerns and worries of IBD. Therefore, an ACT-based intervention program called “The IBD Wellbeing Program” was developed to address comorbid anxious and depressive symptoms in this population. A blended design of therapist-delivered sessions with self-directed modules is a novel approach aimed to provide accessible and cost-effective mental health treatment in IBD care. This is the first study to qualitatively explore feedback from patients and health professionals about the feasibility and acceptability of the program. Focus groups and interviews with a diverse range of participants are currently being conducted and findings will be presented to inform the ACBS community.

The use of mindfulness in primary school physical education: Outcomes from a four year randomised control trial


Lisa Olive and Rohan Telford

Title: The use of mindfulness in primary school physical education: Outcomes from a four year randomised control trial

Background: This study investigated the effects of specialist-lead physical education (S-PE), that incorporated mindfulness based activities, on children’s body acceptance during primary school.

Method: 821 healthy children (M age 8yrs, 406 girls) from 29 schools entered a cluster-randomized controlled trial; those from 13 schools were provided with a 4-year S-PE intervention program, entailing 90 min/week of S-PE as part of, and not in addition to the recommended 150 min/week of PE set out by the Australian Government. On average, 20-to-25% of class time was allocated to mindfulness based activities. The remaining 16 schools formed the control group. Participants completed assessments of Appearance Beliefs in Children Scale in grade 2 and again in grades 3, 4 and 6. Measures of %body fat (DEXA), puberty (Tanner scale) and physical activity (pedometers) were assessed as potential confounds.

Results: After one year of S-PE, girls showed a 0.71 unit-decrease in body dissatisfaction against a 3.01 unit-increase in the control group (p < 0.042). However, analysis over the longer term showed that this improvement was not sustained.

Discussion: While S-PE that incorporated mindfulness-based skills reduced girls’ body dissatisfaction in the first study year, a longer-term positive influence of the PE program was not evident.

Thinking globally and acting locally: How you can change the world one group at a time


Dr Paul Atkins

Human beings cooperate vastly more than any other species because we can create shared stories like money, organizations and rights that can coordinate activity on any scale. But the shared story that says humans are essentially selfish is ruining the planet and increasing inequity, loss of meaning and loneliness. Prosocial is a new story that not only helps small groups to thrive, it could also scale to groups of groups. It is a practical method for balancing self and collective interest, while creating the conditions for trust and shared commitment to thrive.

In this workshop, I will describe the fundamentals of Prosocial including the eight core design principles for effectively coordinating effort within and between groups, as well as a practical method for cultivating shared purpose while also respecting the inevitability of greed and fear in cooperative situations. Participants will leave the workshop with the beginnings of a practical toolkit they can use to enhance cooperation and trust in corporations, government departments, community groups, schools, hospitals and not-for-profits. Participants will also leave with a new shared story about the nature of humanity – a story that provides hope that we can do something about our global challenges.

Learning outcomes:

  1. Understand the conceptual rationale for the Prosocial process.
  2. Describe the five core modules of the Prosocial process.
  3. Conduct a group ACT matrix with a group of your choosing, informed by the Core Design Principles of Prosocial.

Nature: Community / Workplace

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

Using DNA-v to develop a flexible compassionate self


Dr Louise Hayes and Prof Joseph Ciarrochi

This workshop will focus on how to use the developmental model of ACT, called DNA-V, to help adolescents practice compassion and flexibility with their sense of self.

DNA-v is the distillation of cutting edge science and theory into simple processes that can help young people live well, but it isn’t just for young people, it is also for parents, teachers, mentors etc. This model uses research from evolutionary science, behavioural science, ACT, compassion research, and positive psychology to create a new paradigm for promoting vital living. This makes DNA-v a wholly Contextual Behavioral Science model based on growth and development. It can be used in both educational and clinical settings.

In this workshop, we will focus on understanding and intervening with the developing self, including: how to work with an abusive self, and how to use compassion and flexibility exercises to create a flexible self.

Participants will be provided with prior material on basic DNA-v concepts – reading and videos – so that this workshop can jump straight into skills practice in the areas of the self.

Nature: Clinical

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

 Values Work in ACT: Navigating the Complexities of Values Work


Prof Kelly Wilson

In this workshop, I will provide some brief theoretical comments on the nature of values work within ACT and contextual behavioral science more generally. The balance of the workshop will involve exercises, demonstrations, and practice. These practices will help to bring participants into experiential contact with principles and will offer means of working with assorted obstacles to effective values work, including “I don’t know,” overly abstract values, values fusion, and values and social compliance, among others. Values work in ACT can be highly nuanced. Often the content of the session remains the same, but functional intervention must shift between active values work and more mindfulness-oriented values appreciation. Participants will learn to read the need in the session in order to make these transitions in intervention.

Learning objectives

  1. Participants will be able to describe the relationship between ACT values work and the behavioral concept of reinforcement.
  2. Participants will be able to identify client behaviors that signal fusion and avoidance in client presentation.
  3. Participants will be able to select between mindfulness processes and behavioral activation processes depending on levels of fusion and avoidance.


What Is Most Personal Is Most General: How I Learned to Use ACT Processes Intrapersonally, Moment-By-Moment, to Guide Teaching and Clinical Work

Keynote address

 Prof Kelly Wilson

Carl Rogers, in his signature book, On Becoming a Person, remarked on his clinical and teaching career, that he often spoke of his own history in ways that seemed quite idiosyncratic to his life. Rogers found that these seemingly individual experiences often resonated most deeply with clients and students. From this experience, Rogers formulated a proposition: “what is most personal is most general.” I have bet a career on that proposition, with a peculiar contextual behavioral twist.

In this talk, I will weave together several lessons which have had a tremendous impact on my clinical work, and really, because it is not functionally distinct, my teaching and supervision methods, since the same lessons have shaped those activities as well.

Among the lessons woven into the talk will be Bob Kohlenberg’s lesson that every reaction felt by the therapist in a session is data. Many of our reactions to clients occur as unhelpful visitors to awareness. Not all data seem friendly! But, my mentor Steve Hayes’ insisted that the data is always your friend, even when (maybe especially when) it is unfriendly. A third strand in this bit of weaving is the tremendous influence of the late Willard Day on my work. Willard’s various writings, especially his writings on the reconciliation of behaviorism and phenomenology, provided an entry point to a behavioral psychology with sufficient range to encompass the most potent and essential elements of human experience. The last strand of the fabric, provoked by my friend David Sloan Wilson, is the examination humans as an evolved and deeply social mammals. This last provides a framework for the warp and weft of all the rest.

I will describe a method that members of the audience can try on for size. Perhaps they will find, as have I, a means to join clients, students, and supervisees in conversations about meaning and purpose and possibility.

Why 21st Century Leaders Feel ‘In Over Their Heads’ and How Psychological Flexibility Might Help

1.25 hr workshop

Rachel Collis

The 21st century is posing particular challenges for leaders. Environments are often volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) and many leaders feel ‘in over their heads’ (Kegan, 1998). Leadership literature gives clear suggestions on the skills needed to successfully navigate these contexts (e.g. manage the tension of ambiguity and paradox; conduct safe-to-fail experiments; observe the system and look for patterns) (Obolensky, 2015,; Uhl-Bien et al, 2007; Heifetz et al, 2009; Garvey-Berger & Johnston, 2015)). But how do leaders actually develop the capacity to apply these skills? Psychological flexibility would appear to be a useful way of spanning this gap. In this session, we will consider the leadership skills needed to successfully manage VUCA environments and suggest ACT coaching strategies to help leaders to build the necessary psychological flexibility. Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on the complexity of their own organisational context(s) and practice ACT leadership coaching.

Learning outcomes
1.  Analyse the skills needed for leading in complexity
2. Describe the way in which psychological flexibility may be a key skill in these contexts
3. Practice leadership coaching interventions designed to build psychological flexibility in leaders who are feeling in over their heads

 Nature: Community / Coaching / Leadership

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)

 Yoga: Embodied Mindful Movement, Breathing and Sensing Self and Other – Practical skills for developing wisdom and compassion


NeLi Martin

Centring awareness in breath and body rather than the thinking mind is an integral practice (1st foundation) of mindfulness. It establishes the platform from which thoughts and emotions (3rd foundation) can be observed; defusion and acceptance are possible by first coming to know what is occurring in a non-conceptual way. When we come to pursue our values around connection with others we can lose connection to this inner awareness and body wisdom.
The workshop will explore mindfulness of body; cultivating visceral, proprioceptive and interoceptive awareness, whilst the body is still and moving into and out of different postures (yoga asana) alone and in connection with others. We can feel into our way into our place in the wider web of the world; offering practical skills for clinicians in developing perspective taking and compassion in personal and clinical relationships.

Learning objectives:

  • By the end of the session participants will have an experience of awareness in their body whilst allowing natural breath and encouraging breath.
  • Participants will also have an experience of awareness in their own body whilst still and whilst moving, alone and in relation to another.
  • Participants will have felt and reflected on their place in wider relationship and networks, seeing inter-connection as the foundation of compassion.

Nature: Clinical

Target: All (Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced)