Podcast Fights Mental Health Stigma Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

In a time when the public discourse around mental health struggles is permeated with sweeping generalizations of “those” mentally ill people and calls to “lock them up,” a new podcast attempts to bring common humanity back into how we discuss the psychological suffering we all face as humans. Beyond Well with Sheila Hamilton incorporates an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) perspective on the struggles we face, ideas about psychological flexibility and mental health, and what we can all do to lead a well-lived life.

Beyond Well – The Podcast

Started by Emmy Award winning journalist, author, and longtime mental health advocate Sheila Hamilton, Beyond Well is a podcast for the general public that aims to destigmatize and depathologize psychological difficulties while offering hope and resources to the listener. Each week the podcast features a guest, usually an author, musician, actor, activist or other person in the public eye, who talks openly and honestly about the struggles they have faced, whether that be anxiety, depression, substance use, racism, shame, trauma, or grief. In addition to Sheila, the podcast is co-hosted each week by psychologists and ACT therapists Brian Goff, Ph.D. and Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D., who incorporate ACT principles like acceptance, mindfulness, values, and defusion into the conversation. Along with each episode, listeners can also find written “After the Show Thoughts” that offer a deeper dive into some of the various themes and ACT principles discussed in the episode as well as resources.

Recent Guests

Beyond well covers a wide range of topics and features guests from all walks of life. Some recent guests include:  

  • Academy Award nominated documentary film maker Skye Fitzgerald talking about compassion fatigue and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Pop star Lauv talking about his struggle with depression
  • Award winning author Mitchell S. Jackson talking about racial identity
  • Activist Anna Debenham talking about her life-changing work with individuals who are incarcerated
  • Singer-songwriter, actor, and playwright Storm Large talking about being more than her labels and embracing all parts of herself
  • Bestselling author Cheryl Strayed talking about grief

Why Beyond Well Is the Fastest Growing Mental Health Podcast on Spotify   

Every guest has an inspiring and unique story to tell. But what unites all the episodes together is an idea fundamental to ACT — that psychological suffering is not some “abnormality” that happens to others, but rather an inescapable part of the human condition. The emphasis is on our shared humanity and on developing the psychological flexibility that allows us to live a life of meaning, purpose, and integrity even in the midst of that suffering. This perspective seems to be striking a cord with listeners. In just 7 months, the show has gained a tremendous following and is currently the fastest growing mental health podcast on Spotify.

How to Learn More

You can find Beyond Well on Spotify, SoundCloud, and iTunes, or go to the Beyond Well with Sheila Hamilton website for all the past episodes and other information.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Books from 2018

Each year, we update our Learning ACT Resource Guide with the newest resources on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that come out each year. The guide contains a comprehensive list of all of all the ACT that have ever been published. You can browse this list, organized by category, on our LearningACT website. Below, are the 43 new books we discovered when revising the guide at the end of 2018:

Learning ACT

Books for Therapists

Books for Clients

Introducing ACT With Compassion

Dear reader,

We feel a bit like a rude guest, who has forgotten to introduce you to their friend. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably a therapist looking for resources to learn and grow professionally. We think you might be interested in meeting this friend, “ACT With Compassion,” a website dedicated to helping therapists who are interested in bringing more compassion and effectiveness to their work with clients struggling with self-criticism and shame. Actwithcompassion.com is created by therapists at Portland Psychotherapy and is a place where we:

  • List all the latest training events for therapists that we can find that relate to things like self-compassion, compassion-focused therapy, and working with shame prone clients
  • Publish original resources for therapists (e.g. handouts, and exercises) that we’ve created that therapists can use in their practices to help clients with self-criticism and shame
  • Write blog posts about research and resources related to shame, self-criticism and self-compassion.

In our free time, we travel around the web, curating content (e.g. readings, videos, and measures) on self-compassion, shame and self-criticism. It’s possible that actwithcompassion.com might just become your go-to place for book and audio recommendations on these topics.

We apologize for the tardy introduction, but do hope you will become acquainted soon.

Sincerely,
Portland Psychotherapy

Written by Christina Chwyl, B.A.

Values conflicts? Is that a thing?

I love values. People tend to know that about me and so I often get presented with values questions from colleagues or friends. And one of the most common questions that seems to come up has to do with what to do with supposed values conflicts.

While I usually try to approach these questions with openness and curiosity, I’m going to be totally honest here. These questions about “values conflicts” confuse me. It’s like the feeling I had once when I saw an advertisement for a medication to help with the “problem” of “inadequate” eyelashes (true story!). My response was, “Wait, that’s a problem? I didn’t know that was a thing to worry about? Maybe I have that problem and don’t know it!?!” This is how I feel about values conflicts.

Values conflicts just really aren’t something that come up for me in my work or in my life. While I’d love to say that this is because I’m some values Yoda and I’ve got it all figured out, I am 100% certain that is NOT the case. And yet, I keep hearing over and over, on listservs, in supervision, in consult groups about these “values conflicts” that people are struggling to know how to deal with. Am I missing something?

Then, I was recently sitting in a workshop on values at the most recent ACBS World Conference in Montreal and it struck me– the problem is one of terminology. When people are talking about values conflicts they are usually talking about conflicts between values domains NOT conflicts between what I typically mean when I use the word “values.” Basically, they are dealing with what I would call time management problems between various valued domains. These are often struggles a person is experiencing as they try to find balance between various areas of their life that they value that have competing needs, such as their professional life and their family life. This often gets translated as a conflict between one’s work-related values and one’s family-related values. But I would maintain that it’s more workable to approach this as a time management conflict rather than a values conflict.

From an ACT perspective, we stand in the place that valued living is always immediately available to us. That means, that regardless of circumstance, I can always choose to live a life that is in accordance with my values. At any moment, in any context, I am able to choose actions that help move me in direction of my values. Saying that valued living in one domain is in conflict with or is incompatible with valued living in another domain seems to go against this whole notion that I can ALWAYS be living out my values. From this perspective, there are no circumstances that stand in the way of me or anyone else getting to be the person they most want to be (i.e. live in line with their values). That’s why I don’t think it’s useful to approach these difficulties as “values conflicts.”

There are, of course, competing life demands. Most people have to spend significant portions of their day at a job, for example. And putting time or resources into one domain likely does mean you are not putting that time into another domain. When I am at work seeing clients, I am not at home caring well for my family. When I am at the gym attending to my health, I cannot simultaneously also be spending that time attending a community garbage pick-up event. So I would maintain that there are of course time conflicts and we may need to work with our clients (or ourselves!) around things like work-life balance. But posing these as values conflicts does not seem to me to be a workable position to take.

If the aim is to live a life that is guided by values, then it may be more useful to address these struggles is to look at the values congruence across the domains, rather than approaching them as a conflict between competing values. For example, when it comes down to your core values, what is most dear to you, is the person you want to be with your friends and family really incompatible with the person you want to be with your colleagues and clients? I’m guessing not. Sure, I act somewhat different at work than I do with my family, but in both cases some of my core values are things like compassionately caring for others and being warm and kind in my relationships. By focusing on the values congruence across domains I am able to simultaneously be moving towards being the warm and loving person I want to be to my partner even while I am being that warm and loving person to my clients. I am simply being more of the Jenna I want to be across all areas of my life regardless of whether I am at work or home or at the gym. Conflict resolved! Now if I could just clone myself so I could be in more places at once, then that would take care of the whole time management issue.

Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D

Author: Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D

Jenna is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with people who struggle with relationship and intimacy difficulties and with those who have a trauma history. Her research focuses on developing compassion-based interventions targeting stigma, shame, and chronic self-criticism.

Values: Clarity of Purpose, Crisis not Required

July was a heck of a month. Having just returned from a 5-month sabbatical, I was ready to get settled back into my life here in Portland when I got a phone call that stopped me in my tracks. We’ve all had those moments, when an unexpected event challenges us to consider what really matters, often with shocking, jarring clarity. Maybe it’s a phone call that a loved one is being rushed to the hospital. Or maybe it’s the day you lose your “dream job” or your physician gives you that unexpected diagnosis that will change the trajectory of your life. Or maybe it’s the moment your loved one looks into your eyes and says they are leaving you. These things can happen to any of us and if you’ve ever been confronted with one of these crises then I’m guessing it gave you pause to reflect.

Crisis and loss often have a way of clarifying what is most important to us. It often takes a crisis or significant loss to make us stop the autopilot of our lives and focus on what really matters. But what if it were possible to live with that kind of clarity of purpose and values without something terrible needing to happen? And what if your work could be about helping people do that?

At its heart, I think that’s what values work in ACT is all about. Living a values-based life is about living with intention, consciously choosing to live out a well-lived life, whatever that would mean for you personally. Values work in ACT is about creating a context where your clients are able to be connected with and live out their deepest values in a sustained and consistent way, not just when the crisis happens.

Our main tool in being able to help clients connect with what is most important to them (without the need for a crisis to shove that in their face!) is language. Although language often gets a bad rap in ACT, language is our ally when it comes to values work. Language and cognition are the very medium of meaning, purpose, and valuing, experiences which are central to what makes us human. Through various perspective taking exercises, for example, we can use language to enter into a remembered past or an imagined future to help us connect with what may be important to us in the grand scheme of things, beyond simply our immediate wants or preferences.

Over the next several months we’re going to be posting a series of pieces on this issue of values, how to have values guide your therapy and specific tools you can use to help your clients live with intention and clarity of purpose without the need for a preceding crisis. So if this is something you are interested in, stay tuned. Also, we’re currently working on a book on this topic called Values in Practice: A Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Develop Psychological Flexibility and Live a More Meaningful Life, to come out through New Harbinger Publications sometime next year. If you are interested in getting an announcement about when that will be released, feel free to send us an email and we’ll keep you posted about the publication date.

Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D

Author: Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D

Jenna is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with people who struggle with relationship and intimacy difficulties and with those who have a trauma history. Her research focuses on developing compassion-based interventions targeting stigma, shame, and chronic self-criticism.

UPCOMING TRAINING EVENTS

April 17 and 18, 2020, 9:15 am – 5:00 pm · Portland, OR · Details

Do you ever “get stuck” as a therapist? Do some of your clients press your “hot buttons”? Do you ever find yourself struggling and thinking about “what do I do next” or feeling anxious, scared or stressed in therapy? In this workshop we will work on clarifying your therapist values and defining what is “difficult” about “difficult” clients. Through discussions, demonstrations and roleplays we will then work on these difficult clients and look at the processes from a compassionate ACT perspective. Read more