Pre-conference Workshops 2017

Living With and Beyond Your Pain: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in the treatment of Chronic Pain  –  JoAnne Dahl, Ph.DJoAnne tea cup (1)

Pain is a sensation, not a behaviour. Acceptance of the pain experience requires skills of exposure to  pain sensation , defusion from pain rules, and connection to values. The American Psychological Association has deemed ACT to have strong evidence as a treatment for chronic pain and ‘Living Beyond Your Pain’ to be the self help book that is evidence based. ACT is based on functional contextualism and based in a functional behaviorial analysis. The aim of this workshop is to offer participants the chance to both theoretically conceptualise patients with chronic pain as well as train in practical treatment methods. Following are the specific skills participants will learn:

  • How to do specific self compassion exercises used to start a session
  • How to do a specific pain exposure exercise
  • How to use playfulness to add stimulus function to relational frames of pain and increase willingness to investigate pain.
  • How to use delusion exercises for pain rules
  • How to apply the functional analysis using the ‘Life Line’
  • Practice using the concept of ‘values’ as a perspective and increase willingness to investigate pain.
  • How to understand and apply ‘Self as Context’ to aid implementation and maintenance of new skills in the natural environment.
Traditionally, persons with chronic pain and burn out are treated in expensive and intrusive multidisciplinary rehabilitation centers. This workshop shows an alternative ACT treatment model which is short term, and internet supported and shown to be significantly more effective and cheaper than multidisciplinary treatment.
The ACT treatment rests on a behavior analysis done on the floor in the form of the ‘ life line’ . This is a behavior sampling of 3 instances of experiential avoidance throughout life. ACT processes such as self as context, perspective taking, valuing, defusing, being present, committed action are all role played on this life life.



Lisa Coyne
Fear and Flexibility: ACT for Anxiety and OCD in Young People – Lisa Coyne

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for anxiety and OCD in children and adolescents have robust empirical support. However, clinicians trained in effective use of this treatment model are rare, and the service need is great, resulting in many children and adolescents failing to receive treatment for months to years after symptom onset. New research on how exposure works has suggested specific guidelines we can use to enhance how we use exposure based treatments. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a transdiagnostic evidence-based approach that can be used to support inhibitory learning in treatment. Thus, this two-day workshop will address how clinicians may incorporate ACT components into ERP to maximize inhibitory learning.

Specifically, the speaker will:
a) present a thorough overview of exposure-based treatments and inhibitory learning research and applications;
b) teach how to conduct exposure-based treatment with children and adolescents;
c) give a thorough overview of ACT and its evidence-base; and
c) demonstrate how to incorporate specific ACT interventions into exposure to strengthen and contextualize inhibitory learning.

Participants will be given opportunities to engage in experiential exercises, role plays and case discussions in which to practice the principles taught. Clinical examples will be used to illustrate therapeutic techniques, in addition to the workshop’s didactic content.


Behind the ACT: Applying Relational Frame Theory in Practice – Darin Cairns

ACT has become a well-established and heavily researched approach within the CBT tradition. However, whilst it has gained increased acceptance and influence within the CBT community and clinical practitioners alike, the actual benefits of ACT are not strictly to do with its different approach to CBT or the new ideas it has brought to mental health treatment.  The steps forward that ACT represents lie in its attempt to build upon the basic fields of psychology and evolutionary science, where experimental data and core processes underlying all human functioning are studied.  Where, currently, our therapies are evaluated with outcome data that reflect on treatment efficacy that can give us confidence in our approaches, they teach us little about the processes that actually are underlying our treatments and our clients functioning.  ACT is a conscious attempt to address that gap in our knowledge as it takes the position that ‘knowing how to grow a garden is very different to knowing why gardens grow’

Relational Frame Theory is the body of science that ACT rests upon.  It is explicitly tied to evolutionary and developmental theory but also to strong experimental research on how language and cognition are learned, develop and function at the individual level across a lifespan.  RFT allows applied psychology to connect to the more foundational aspects of all humanfunctioning such as learning, reasoning, coping and relating to ourselves and each other.  The richness of such an analysis is that it gives practitioners, even if skilled in therapy, a much greater insight into why their clients are suffering and how they came to be functioning this way.  Furthermore, it allows them to ‘supercharge’ their use of ACT (and CBT tools in general) by having a better grasp of how to maximise therapeutic processes by tailoring them to their client’s language to better access their cognitive and learning needs.

This workshop will teach the processes and mechanisms ‘behind’ and underneath the hexaflex but also within the therapeutic context itself.  Specifically, it will focus on

  • Explaining the core concept of Psychological Flexibility from an RFT perspective.
  • How RFT explains the ways ACT techniques work and how it guides you in what to do when they don’t.
  • How RFT can assist and make sense of all forms of CBT and therapy by showing how language and learning are working ‘in the room’ for the client and therapist.
  • How to do a case formulation using RFT.
  • How to analyse client’s responses in real time during a session.
  • How to develop and tailor strategies to your clients’ needs.
  • How to use RFT to assess change and growth in your client.

The approach to this workshop will be practical and experiential.  Core concepts will be returned to in case studies, role plays, experiential exercises and discussions of people’s own cases to maximise ease of understanding and participants’ ability to utilize these concepts in their daily work.