Getting your ACT together – at the NCH Annual Conference


Principal of UK College / Central England College, Nick Cooke has been invited to be a presenter at the 2017 annual conference of The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH), being held in London at the Royal College of Medicine on Saturday 24th June 2017. His topic is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It is the first time that this important topic has been presented at any hypnotherapy conference and Nick will be illustrating it with some role play demonstrations as well as some video clips of ACT in practice.

ACT, normally pronounced ‘act’ is particularly well named as it is at heart a behavioural therapy, about taking action. Not any old action though, but action aimed at helping us to move in a valued direction in order to achieve a rich, full and meaningful life. ACT works in some rather surprising and unusual ways. Unlike many therapies, it does not aim to help clients to think positively or to reduce the intensity of unwanted feelings. As a mindfulness based intervention, it offers some practical exercises, metaphors and discussions which can help clients to develop psychological flexibility, enabling them to become more self-aware in a non-judgemental sense, accept the reality of the present situation, and become free from unhelpful thinking and acting patterns.

Many people are familiar with what is known as The Serenity Prayer which, as it happens, is rooted in the 12 Step Recovery Programme. ‘Please grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, the courage to make what changes I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.

Although ACT is secular, the above sentiments provide a useful way of thinking about acceptance and willingness to change, in face of challenging circumstances. The sub-text may be read as us having, at least at some level, choice as to how we respond and the ability to select an appropriate / workable response. We achieve this by teaching the psychological skills which can help to deal with unwanted and painful thoughts and feelings so that they have significantly less negative impact on our client. We also help our client to examine, through a number of exercises, what values are most important to them.

The ACT Acronym

This is a simple acronym that encompasses the whole of the ACT model. The letters of the acronym are, by amazing coincidence, ‘ACT’!
A = Accept whatever you notice in the present moment.
C = Choose a valued direction to move in.
T = Take appropriate action.

At the conference Nick will be drawing similarities between solution focused hypnotherapy, NLP, coaching and ACT. The model of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is very conducive to integration with these other psychological approaches. As mentioned earlier, ACT is a mindfulness based therapy and learning to be aware, or to live in the present moment (easier said than done!) is at its heart. Isn’t it all too easy for us to become entangled with thoughts about the past of, or worry about the future, and very seldom be fully conscious of our present experience. We compound this by living in automatic pilot mode (or trance state) where, it might be argued, we are not really living at all! Awareness enables us to begin to notice our thinking, particularly, negative, unwanted thoughts, almost ‘catching’ them before they can tilt us into a downward spiral.

Nick will be outlining for conference attendees, some case studies to demonstrate how ACT works, as well as giving a brief summary of published scientific research.

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