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.

New books on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 2017


We do our best to update our Learning ACT Resource Guide with the newest resources on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that come out each year.

You can download the newest version of the guide here.

As part of the guide, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive list of all the ACT that have ever been published.  Below are the 11 new books we discovered when wee revised the guide at the end of 2017:

Books for therapists:

ACT Books for the public:

We hope you find this new version of the Learning ACT Resource Guide useful in your practice. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it!

Disclosure: These links are affiliate links, meaning Portland Psychotherapy will be receive a small commission if you decide to buy something through Amazon after clicking on them. If you appreciate our work in putting this guide together (which we’ve done for free), then maybe you’ll be happy to have that happen, but if not, just buy the book without clicking on the link. It doesn’t cost you anything either way.

CEO of Portland Psychotherapy publishes second edition of “Learning ACT”

Our CEO, Jason Luoma, Ph.D., has just published the second edition of the book Learning ACT!

Learning ACT, Second Edition has been thoroughly rewritten with new exercises, references, and totally new chapters. It also pulls together resources on ACT from across the literature to guide therapists who are new to ACT.

In this fully revised and updated edition you’ll find exercises to help you practice, in the therapist role, ACT’s unique six process model. Numerous therapy vignettes illustrate how ACT actually looks in clinical practice and give you a chance to step into the role of therapist, to practice your skills before stepping into the room with an actual client. There are also downloadable extras that include role-played examples of the core ACT processes in action.

The two most novel parts of the book (outlined here in more detail) and based on recent changes in contextual behavioral science are:

  • A thoroughly rewritten chapter on flexible perspective taking/self-as-context that makes this often confusing process much more accessible and useful
  • A new chapter on how to tailor ACT to take into account different cultural contexts and identities

Read more on the New Harbinger website

Learning ACT second edition

Praise for Learning ACT:

“In this authoritative text, Luoma, Hayes, and Walser present a clearly written and practical step-by-step guide for therapists who are using acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Firmly rooted in contextual behavioral science and derived from a well-articulated theory, this text clearly describes and illustrates the concrete strategies to target a set of key processes that are critical to improve the lives of people. Every clinician should be familiar with it. It is a masterful book. I highly recommend it.”
—Stefan G. Hofmann, PhD, professor of psychology at Boston University, past president of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and author of Emotion in Therapy

“This second edition is an exceptional guide for the skillful and flexible implementation of ACT principles. The chapters outline the six core flexible ACT processes and their methods, with case examples and dialogues that bring the information to life. The book includes a unique and invaluable set of training tools and tests of core competencies. This is a masterful ‘how to’ for ACT suitable for clinicians at any level of training and experience.”
—Michelle G. Craske, PhD, distinguished professor, and director of the Anxiety and Depression Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles

“Firmly grounded in contextual behavioral science (CBS), superbly organized with lucid and comprehensive explanation of all ACT concepts and competencies, and loaded with clinical pearls and pitfalls to avoid, this book lives up to the title and then some, as one of the best books for learning ACT. Further, the clinical vignettes and self-reflective exercises will deepen and advance the practice of more seasoned practitioners of ACT. The updated text and the new inclusion of an excellent chapter on culture and diversity make this edition more relevant and invaluable than ever in this diverse, globalizing world. This book is simply a ‘must-have’ for any serious ACT practitioner!”
—Kenneth P. Fung, MD, FRCPC, MSc, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto; clinical director of the Asian Initiative in Mental Health at the University Health Network; and president-elect of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture

“ACT has been at the forefront of the pioneering third-wave cognitive behavioral therapies for many years. Not only has it uniquely linked the human evolution of language and symbol formation to mental processes that can cause suffering (relational frame theory [RFT]), but it has articulated six clear processes for therapeutic intervention centered around developing psychological flexibility. For both novice and expert therapists of any orientation, you could not want for a more clearly articulated, easily accessible, and therapeutically wise approach than this by these leaders and pioneers in the field. Full of therapeutic transcripts with clear, insightful descriptions of the therapeutic process, this beautifully written book is an outstanding contribution to therapeutic literature that is bound to become a classic and an essential text.”
—Paul Gilbert, professor at the University of Derby, creator of compassion-focused therapy (CFT), founder of the Compassionate Mind Foundation, and author of The Compassionate Mind

“The tremendous dedication of thought and care Luoma, Hayes, and Walser infused into this second edition of Learning ACT is evident in the breadth and depth of every chapter. Their labor of love resulted in a preeminent and indispensable guide for novice and advanced ACT practitioners alike. Especially valuable are the fifty core competency exercises that stimulate experiential engagement. The chapter on adapting ACT to cultural contexts makes this a cutting-edge treatment for individuals from every walk of life who want to move in valued directions while welcoming all their thoughts and feelings.”
—Mavis Tsai, PhD, coauthor of A Guide to Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, and research scientist and clinical faculty at the University of Washington

 

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