I decided to start this blog as a way to share some of what I've learned about the nature of human suffering and its alleviation. I'm doing this mostly with an eye on anxious suffering, and my experience with a new approach to psychological health and wellness called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT, said as one word). I won't claim to have all the answers. My intent is to share.

Acceptance and mindfulness-based approaches are changing the landscape of psychology, mental health care, medicine, and society. They are based on a very old and radical idea, namely, that a good deal of human suffering is fed by efforts to struggle with and avoid our own psychological and emotional pain. New research from many sources now shows that this war tends to amplify our pain, takes enormous effort, doesn't work very well, and can keep us stuck and suffering.

So, what's the alternative? The alternative is this: paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment, with a quality of kindness and compassion (self and other), and with both eyes on living out your values, right here, right now. These are skills that we all can learn and many studies show that people who learn them report more vitality, less illness, better quality of life, and greater freedom too.

Instead of more struggle, we learn to open up to our experience just as it is (not as our minds say it is), to hold our thoughts more lightly, to connect with our values (what we care about in this life), and to carry our minds, bodies, and personal history forward into a more vital and valued life. This set of very simple ideas goes against just about everything we've learned, at least in the West, since kindergarten. That's why they can be so powerful!

We are all in the same soup. Pain, in all its forms, is part of the human condition. Yet, that pain -- whether physical, emotional, psychological -- need not be fed and allowed to mushroom into the suffering that takes over and shrinks lives. There are ways to douse the flames that feed needless suffering -- the spin off that our mind and old history creates -- and to live well with the pains, joys, and sorrows that are part of life. This is where I think ACT can help.

Peace -john

Monday, October 11, 2010

Using Exposure-Based Strategies in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: A One-Day Professional Workshop

ACT involves cultivating a new relationship with painful and difficult aspects of our own histories in the service of moving forward into a more vital life -- living well. This can be challenging for all of us, and that includes therapists.

So, we've put together a little 1 day training to walk mental health professionals through the process of helping their clients (and perhaps themselves) open up to pain and difficulty so that they can do what matters to them. Many folks call this exposure, but within ACT, it is really much more nuanced than that. And, exposure within ACT has a look and feel to it that it unlike more traditional exposure.

I thought to word about this workshop announcement here in the event that you or someone you know might be interested in coming. You can also find the link to the announcement at New Harbinger by clicking here. We are limiting the number of seats.

With a Kind Heart

John P. Forsyth

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Books