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by Tim Gordon, MSW, RSW

Psychological flexibility represents the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) model of health—it's the element we want to foster and grow in our clients while modelling it ourselves as mental health professionals.

By Matthew McKay, Publisher and co-founder of New Harbinger Publications

Behavior change that is consistent with personal values is the purpose of psychotherapy. As teens begin to identify what’s important to them and take steps to behave in ways that move toward those things, they will experience internal events that may be intense or challenging. These are things they’ve spent energy avoiding in the past, which have in turn steered them further away from their values.

Values clarification is a critical part of  any psychotherapy session. It may be more challenging for some teens than others, to get in touch with what matters to them. For those who struggle, clinical psychologist Sheri Turrell, PhD, and social worker Mary Bell, MSW, suggest a number of options.

It isn’t surprising that we’re under the illusion that we own our time. People tend to talk about the future as if it’s a physical thing, something promised to us. Adults tell young people that what they’re doing in the present is simply preparation for an outstanding future career. Studying helps them get into the right university, volunteer work looks good on a résumé, and extracurricular activities will show a future employer that they’re well-rounded.

In ACT, every discussion has a value behind it. Sometimes what a person cares about is explicit; other times it’s hidden. As mental health practitioners, our job is to be on the alert, always asking, “What does the client care about here?”

If you use defusion in your therapy sessions, or any other technique aimed at helping clients create distance between themselves and the stories they tell themselves, you may recognize this common pitfall: If our thoughts are not absolute truths, then it may seem that there is no absolute meaning, no right or wrong, and perhaps even no absolute point of reference.

Editor's note: The following was adapted from The ACT Practitioner's Guide to the Science of Compassion, by Dennis Tirch, PhD, Benjamin Schoendorff, MA, MSc, and Laura Silberstein, PsyD. Dennis Tirch will be presenting a two-day Introduction to Compassion-Focused Therapy in San Rafael, California on September 5 - 6, 2015.

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, values clarification plays a crucial role in guiding clients to behave in ways that bring them closer toward what's important to them. Today's free e-book is a mental health practitioner's complete guide to helping clients identify their values and apply them to their lives in practical ways. Readers will learn to clarify both personal and professional values and act in accordance with these values in therapy. 

Editor's note: The following was adapted from the edited volume, Mindfulness and Acceptance in Social Work, edited by Matthew S. Boone. Boone will be presenting a two-day Introduction to ACT Training in Oakland, California on August 1 - 2, 2015. Don't miss your chance to learn the fundamentals of ACT with an award-winning trainer and exceptional clinician.


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