Insights from ACBS World Conference XII in Minneapolis

"My experience at ACBS World Conference in Minneapolis can be summed up in two words: camaraderie and prosocial.

The ACBS community just rocks in camaraderie, and this came through loud and clear in Minneapolis. The efforts to include everyone in the discussion, from the original ACBS members to the ones who showed up for the first time, were palpable. The open space at the convention center was just perfect for this openness as the "stars" of ACBS sat right down at the tables and talked to everyone, including any children who happened to be in the room. Obviously the original members of ACBS got this camaraderie ball rolling, but the people who have joined since have picked it up and run with it. It was a wonder to behold.

While Prosocial is the moniker given to the efforts of Steve Hayes; David Sloan Wilson; and others who are bringing together behavioral science, economics, and evolution science, ACBS prosocial goes way beyond that; prosocial behaviors are at its core. ACBS folks help each other do prosocial stuff. If you need help on a personal level, someone is there for you. If you need help helping others, someone is there for you. If you have what you think is a great idea for helping things along, someone is there to listen to you and, if possible, give the idea a try to see how it works. This prosocial stuff is rewarding, and I think it helps explain why more and more people are showing up to ACBS. I look forward to seeing everyone (and more) at the next ACBS World Conference."

—Kevin L. Polk, PhD, co-editor of The ACT Matrix


"This was my first time attending ACBS World Conference, and it was such an overall positive experience. While my initial excitement about the conference was over debuting my book, The Transdiagnostic Roadmap to Case Formulation and Treatment Planning, I was also looking forward to attending some of the workshops (it was tough to choose among the many compelling topics!), enhancing my ACT skills, and learning more about RFT. The presentations and experiential exercises were interesting and enjoyable, and I definitely left Minneapolis more knowledgeable and skillful as a therapist than when I arrived.

What impressed me the most about the conference, however, was the unmistakable sense of community and the authenticity and warmth of its members. While I was a little concerned about how I would fit in because my practice is not limited to ACT (I integrate it with other evidence-based treatments based on clients’ needs), I was genuinely moved by how welcoming and supportive everyone was, and how easily I felt like a part of the ACBS community. I especially valued meeting and chatting with presenters and other authors like Russell Kolts, Russ Harris, and Dennis Tirch, as well as the casual conversations during lunch with other attendees (both familiar and new) that helped us learn about and share a little bit of who we are with each other. Last, but definitely not least, since NH runs the bookstore at World Con it was great to put faces to the names of some staff members who helped produce my book and experience their expertise and genuine warmth in person."

—Rochelle I. Frank, PhD, co-author of The Transdiagnostic Roadmap to Case Formulation and Treatment Planning


"This will sound strange, but being at ACBS World Conference this year reminded me a bit of being pregnant. It also reminded me of the eleven months I spent hobbling around on crutches in my early twenties, my leg in a full-length brace following a major knee reconstruction. Anyone who has experienced being in this sort of situation knows that it is like suddenly belonging to a club you hadn’t even known existed. The physical obviousness of the condition turns strangers into fellow travelers. You get a lot of questions. You hear a lot of stories. Something about it provides an opening so that even those who have not shared it feel enabled to connect. This speaks to how ready we humans are to connect with one another—all we need is an obvious opening.

I experienced a point of connection at the conference this year that I hadn’t expected. This was my book, Advanced Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which had just been released in early June. I was surprised and delighted as attendees approached me to talk about their experiences with it. I had wanted to make a contribution to the community, but what I realized was most meaningful was the genuine connection with others who, having read the book, felt comfortable approaching me to talk. The book simply highlighted the shared experiences and values that were already there.

Attendees of ACBS conferences, particularly first-time participants, often remark on the warm and collaborative feel. A gift of working with ACT and in the contextual science community is awareness of our shared humanity. We are about improving the human condition and enabling people to live according to what they hold most dear. What more meaningful point of connection could there be? And yet, I know that without the book providing an opening, many of those wonderful conversations would not have taken place.

In the weeks following the conference, I have pondered how I might move through the world in a way that invites connection—ideally one that doesn’t involve getting pregnant, or blowing out my knee, or writing another darn book. I intend to remember that those I encounter have their own blown-out knees, hopes, and dreams even if I can’t see them. And I have made a commitment to capitalize on what attending an ACBS conference says about shared values by starting those conversations. Hope to see you in Berlin!"

—Darrah Westrup, PhD, author of Advanced Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


Ruth Baer, PhD

"The ACBS World Conference in Minneapolis was a great experience. I’m involved in a research project with college students, so I attended sessions on ACT with undergraduates. The range of applications was impressive. There’s a common misconception that college students suffer from nothing worse than homesickness and are not a worthwhile population for clinical psychologists to study. I was pleased to see the widespread recognition that the college years can be stressful and painful and that many students suffer from serious behavioral and emotional difficulties.

Of course, I was also very pleased that the ACBS Bookstore sold all the copies of my book they’d brought with them! The book integrates ACT with elements from dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and mindfulness-based relapse prevention. It’s transdiagnostic, skills-based, empirically grounded, user-friendly, and has interesting intersections with the positive psychology literature."

—Ruth Baer, PhD, author of The Practicing Happiness Workbook


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