RFT: The Space-time of the Human Universe, Part I

RFT: The Space-time of the Human Universe, Part I

Original post to angelacathey.com (June, 2016)

I’m going to start this post off by telling you a little secret. I get a little obsessive with ideas. Give me something interesting to think about and I’m a kid with a Rubik’s cube all over again. When I immersed myself in RFT I turned that Rubik’s cube so many times I dreamt in RFT. (Yes, I know that’s weird.)

While you’re adjusting to that information, let me show you why I will probably never get tired of playing with this toy. I’m going to show you several metaphorical, philosophical, and sometimes downright fun, ways to understand RFT. 

CONSTRUCTS, RELATIONS, AND THE BEAUTY OF THE UNIVERSE

First, let’s loosen your frames a bit and help you ‘connect’ more abstractly. Let’s channel Karl Sagan for a moment and teach RFT through a little astrophysics.

Imagine the earth and planets swirling about in space. They all have this rhythm and dance to how they move about each other. Imagine now that those planets are constructs (e.g., “psychological flexibility”, “courage”, “love”, “present-moment-focus”, “mindfulness”, “habituation”, “transference”, etc).

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.40.46 AM

Now looking out on the planets we are like the astronomers once were… seeing these celestial bodies in awe but not understanding their rhythms. We can ‘see’ them dancing around each other but we can’t tell why. Most of our scientific method in psychology is based around this level of mystery. We assume we know very little and that every hypothesis is a bit like glancing in the telescope and hoping we see planets crash together. If we see it, and we haven’t spent all day looking through the telescope… then that’s an important finding! And, because we can’t all watch the whole universe we each pick a few planets (constructs) to watch intensely.

Now let go of your favorite planets for a moment and zoom back… look at the big picture. See the planets moving on their orbits over the course of time…

Now drop to a different level of analysis.  In this picture, we see what we scientists later understood about planets influence each other.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.41.44 AM

What we understood that gave us infinite and useful knowledge about space (even beyond the planets we could see) was… as Karl Sagan put it, “gravity is geometry.”

Gravity is a distortion in space-time that forms a kind of net that allows the weight of the planets to pull against each other. This is what gives them their lovely dances in relation to each other.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.28.31 AM

RFT, and behavior analysis more broadly, is the gravity beneath our day-to-day behavior. It shows us how the constructs influenced by human verbal/symbolic behavior dance together.

This is ‘true’ in several ways:

Gravity is a very ‘real’ force to be reckoned with and yet you can’t ‘prove’ it in most contexts. We just trust that it’s there because it is useful to do so. The construct of gravity is a description of relation. It’s a useful explanation in daily life for why it would be stupid to hold the DSM-5 over your foot and drop it. Sure, you could go ask Karl Sagan for the formula and proof but in the meantime… you should probably still move your foot out of the way of the DSM.

In the same way, RFT relations can’t typically be ‘proven’ in the moment. That’s not the point in applied work though. Like the web you see below the planets, what RFT, and behavior analysis more broadly, gives us is far more powerful than a view of the actual planets. It gives a way to predict and intervene in nearly anything influenced by human thought. (If that doesn’t inspire awe … go back and read it again.)

Planets collide…

On another level, what it does is let use see the planets in a new light. They are no longer separate planets dancing unpredictably in space. They are a tiny visible piece of the universe dancing an understandable rhythm influenced by the interlocking distortion of space-time that holds them in relation to each other.

And just like this conception of gravity as space-time distortion… understanding RFT, and behavior analysis, allows us to come up with some amazing ways of understanding our universe.

If you like learning about Relational Frame Theory, behavior analysis, principles, or the philosophy of science through metaphor, or otherwise, let us know in the comments below! 

The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice

‘by Angela Cathey, MA, LPC

Recently, we had the good fortune of having Benji Schoendorff, MA, MSc for an interview. Benji is a renowned Acceptance and Commitment trainer. He is a joint owner of the Contextual Psychology Institute (CPI) with his wife Marie-France Bolduc. They and their beloved son travel the world doing their part to put ‘psychological flexibility in the water supply.’ Benji is a deeply principle-driven clinician and trainer. His work is highly informed by Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and behavior analysis. In addition to the training that Benji does to increase the skill of individuals, Benji and the Contextual Psychology Institute (CPI) also work to improve contexts by training organizations to better engage with the ‘difficult’ in the service of reaching their goals and values.

Below, we discuss some of Benji’s recent work and thoughts on applying ACT to organizations.  

Angela: “Benji, you’re a celebrated trainer of ACT and FAP. You travel the world teaching others to be more aware, mindful, and courageous in how they work with each other. Though you’ve had a great deal of impact on many in psychology, by teaching evidence-based interventions, your work has ventured more and more into changing larger contexts as well. Can you tell me a bit about this focus and how it has brought you further into consulting?”

Benji: “My personal mission, and that of our institute, is to slip psychological flexibility in the water supply. What I mean by ‘psychological flexibility’ is the ability to choose to do what matters, even in the presence of obstacles. It is about choice. Individuals who are ‘stuck’ feel they don’t have a choice, and the same is true of teams and organizations—and of course of individuals within teams and organizations. We all know that businesses and organizations are sitting atop a hard to tap gold mine: employee engagement. I believe being able to choose to do what matters in your professional life just as much as in your personal life is the key to both well-being and to fully engaging in our lives and work. After all, we spend a good chunk of our waking life working. Yet paradoxically, our present organizational structures largely deprive us of choice. Is it a wonder that employees aren’t as engaged as they could be? What we’ve discovered is that using the applied principles of modern behavioral science, there is an easy and intuitive way to increase ‘psychological flexibility’ in the workplace and in organizations. It’s a simple and intuitive model we call The ACT Matrix and I believe it has the potential to revolutionize our working lives as much as our personal lives.”

Angela: “That’s wonderful Benji. For those who haven’t met you, can perhaps tell us a bit more of what is it like to work with you personally in personal or organizational psychological flexibility initiatives?”

Benji: “In the spirit of 360-degree feedback, I’d invite you to ask my team members and past clients. I think they would say that I am creative, passionate, values-driven, flexible, fun to work with and always human. My working style is highly participatory and I love to make work fun! I seek to create contexts in which people can best contact their resources and make their own best choices. I believe every person can make their own choices and I know how to inspire folks to feel that way. As a leader, I trust my team members to make decisions, preferring to advise than dictate. As a consultant, I connect with my clients’ unique needs and perspectives to help them identify original and above all workable ways to reach their goals.”

Angela: “I see the flexibility and awareness in the way you pursue life itself. It takes a deep commitment to innovation and humanity to truly walk the path you espouse so fully. I’m excited to be working with your team more closely these days and enjoying the development of technology and change with you. Can you tell us what your strengths and ‘learning edges’ are?”

Benji: “The learning edge feels tricky… I have many learning edges. The one I am working on at the moment is to further develop my ability to integrate the technology you are developing into my consulting work to help clients track how effective working with The ACT Matrix can be to foster team and individual productivity and empowerment. I am also working on being more compassionate and validating, more consistent in my work, more responsive.”

Angela: “Those are certainly worthwhile goals and lately, it seems like you’re all over the world putting these into place while doing workshops? How do you see this work developing as you put ‘psychological flexibility into the water’ so to speak?”

Benji: “Well, I am trying to write a lot of blogs and of course I give lots of trainings, nearly one a week, and we are getting more trainers to work with our institute, though that’s barely started.”

Angela: “That’s wonderful! I am looking forward to seeing more from you and CPI. Tell me, is there a leader, idea, or experience that has most influenced you on your path?”

Benji: “The person that has most influenced me in my work is without question Steven Hayes, the main founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Training (ACT). Steve is an absolute trailblazer, and the sweetest human being, combining the sharpest intellect and a deeply human heart. His stroke of genius was to see that human suffering and getting stuck are not ‘pathological’ processes, but an inevitable byproduct of how our minds work. He set about to understand what processes could account for the difficulties we experience and what to do so we can more easily get unstuck and do what’s important to us. That makes ACT translatable to the world of business and organizations. In my organizational work, I am so grateful to Kevin Polk and colleagues who developed The ACT Matrix, a simple and intuitive way to bring the power of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) to the world of business.”

“Finally, I want to mention Dennis Bakke’s books, ‘The Decision Maker’ and ‘Joy at Work’. Bakke built a 47,000-strong multinational Electricity-generation company by radically devolving decision-making to his employees. His core idea is that if we treat people as fully responsible adults in the workplace by letting them make all the decisions that concern them, they will fully engage in their work. For Bakke as for me, this doesn’t just make perfect business sense, it is a core value for the full realization of our human potential.”

Angela: “Interesting. There’s been a great deal developing across fields that I believe will change the face of our workplaces in the future. As our lives have become more connected by technology, I believe we’ve become more disconnected in our lives. Workplaces offer these wonderful microcosms of our lives and networks, both socially and technologically. In an era of constant movement and short job tenure, the characters in our lives are ever-changing, connected-but-not… our lives and well-being increasingly seem tied to our ability to co-exist productively, sustainably, and cooperatively with others who may not know us or understand us. This is both exciting and terrifying. We have the chance to grow as a species, but will we choose to? I believe that if there are people like you, who choose to walk the more challenging paths, we may have a chance. Thank you so much for your time, Benji. I look forward to seeing more and more of your work and deepening the ties between our organizations.”

 

Relational Frame Theory (RFT)- What’s the big deal?

Relational Frame Theory (RFT)- What’s the big deal?

by Angela Cathey, MA (Original post to angela.cathey.com June, 2016)


So, what’s the deal with RFT? Isn’t this just another theory to add to your dusty reading stack? No. Put it on top, like yesterday.

RFT is a theory of how relating becomes a part of our processing of the world. We are richly hooked into our very verbal sense-making of the world. Our internal verbal-ish history can become a more predominate shaper of perception, in the moment, than even previous respondent or operant conditioning. Move over Bandura and those ridiculous Bobo dolls, we’re onto something big.

Yes, it’s a big deal. HUGE. The most coherent, expansive, and useful theories we have in psychology allow us to predict and influence behavior are operant and respondent conditioning-based. Functional Analysis (FA) is a cornerstone of modern behaviorist therapies and yet we’re saying that even if you account for all the ‘external’ context you could be missing the most important variable in the room.

Our ideographic and collective history of verbal relating influences our perception. Note: this is not the same as ‘language’. What we’re talking about is a hodgepodge mix of learning history, language, internal rules, sensations, etc. that people often hear as “language”). It’s not about “language” it’s about relational history that gets heavily influenced by language because that’s the framework we see the world through. Just think… when is the last time that voice in your head actually shut up? Never? We are verbal and that verbal-ness is often key in high-jacking a human’s response to the contingencies in the room. Further, we understand that the specific ways and frequencies in which we relate things can influence our perception, behavior, emotion in predictable ways.

So, this verbal relational soup of history is on-going and heavily influencing our contact with the world. This is pretty profound, but in itself, esoteric at best. Like knowledge of quantum mechanics and M-theory it’s cool but what can we DO with it? That’s where we really start getting to the sexiness inherent in RFT. RFT describes properties of relating such that you can walk back and forth with empirical logic from observation, to assessment, to intervention strategy.

As a clinician and researcher, I’ve done most of my work in exposure-based treatment of anxiety and related issues. In treating severe anxiety at the Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization levels I saw clients on a daily basis for hours, for months at a time.  It was doing this level of treatment where I saw the quirks of change, or lack of it, in my client’s behavior the best. It was here that I kept running across quirks in treatment and assessment that were not well explained in the literature. One of those phenomena was that what tended to most amp up or dampen exposure intensity within OCD and PTSD wasn’t what you’d expect. I found that often the stimuli or experiences that were most painful for people were linked to their values or their sense of themselves, others, or the world. I also noticed that sometimes hierarchies needed to include exposure to stimuli that just didn’t fit into normal models of fear conditioning (see exposures to milkshakes, umbrellas, The Doors, and emotions themselves). And, weirder yet – that a change in context could sometimes seemingly result in immediate ‘habituation’.

I returned to Relational Frame Theory and behavior analysis because training across modalities still left me with insufficient explanation for what I saw. Take the example of values intensifying exposure via values. Yes, that might be covered by ACT mid-level terms but it doesn’t give you a full picture. If we consider properties inherent in various types of ‘framing’ that might be at hand in values we not only know what to do to move this material with the client but we also have indications of other, less intuitive things that might also be amply or de-amplify an exposure (outside of values). We can reasonably say that hierarchical framing is likely at hand. Knowing this, we might also be able to find other material that moves exposures up and down the hierarchy simply by understanding the types of relations that are most predominant in driving the client’s experience. 

What’s more, you can do this underneath the level of therapeutic orientation and diagnosis. Everything becomes about relations that we can influence without clinging to our own preferred tools. (Yes, that’s right. I’m a behaviorist and I believe those psychoanalytic folks may even be getting it right too – just differently. None of us has a total lock-down on effective treatment.

I see this as the real beauty and possibility of Relational Frame Theory and behavior analysis – the promise that unification of psychology – across all areas influenced by human thought, across levels of analysis, across basic and applied, across therapeutic orientation, and across diagnoses might be possible. That we may just be able to move forward from the elaborated mess of opposing theories, big egos, and lack of cooperation that we currently call ‘psychology.’

Are you interested in learning more about RFT and behavior analysis? Let us know in the comments or consider taking one of our online training events.

 

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or “ACT” said as one word is considered one of a new wave of cognitive-behavioral therapies, including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and others. These treatments largely involve many of the aspects common in traditional cognitive-behavioral therapies but with important technical and theoretical differences (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999). In ACT there is a focus on “accepting” what is out of the client’s control and commit to changing what is in their control, to improve their lives (Orsillo & Roemer, 2005). ACT includes the use of mindfulness, to assist in reaching these goals, which has long been a part of Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism. Mindfulness can be explained as being aware of your experiences moment to moment and experiencing them with openness and interest, rather than judgment (Hayes et al., 1999; Orsillo & Roemer, 2005).

ACT is a tradition based on Functional Contextualism (Hayes et al., 1999). Functional contextualism is a form of pragmatism, which states events should be understood as a whole, in context, and as ongoing (Hayes et al., 1999). This is in opposition with most traditional views of behavioral therapies, which are more present-focused and tend to limit their focus to what is appears directly relevant to the presenting problem. Also important in functional contextualism is the following of pragmatic truth criterion. Pragmatic truth criterion refers to judge the effectiveness of our actions based on how they meet our goals rather than their match to some supposed concrete reality. In this line of thought, no ‘truth’ is universal; what is true is only what works in getting a person to their unique goals. This differs from most traditional cognitive-behavioral treatments that might focus on having clients test the validity of their thoughts in quasi scientific manner against reality. In ACT, a person we would tend not to ask a client to test their thoughts regarding fears to see if they are “valid” or “logical” fears. In ACT, the focus is on whether believing the thought constricts or expands the individual’s ability to live a valued life. This is often referred to as “workability” and is a central concept to contextualism. “Context” here refers to how the behavior occurs and what rules govern the behavior (Hayes et al., 1999). Within ACT the context of the behavior, and not the form, of the behavior itself is the focus of change. Thus, symptom reduction is not directly an aim of ACT but rather a side effect (Hayes et al., 1999). From the ACT perspective, suffering is both a necessary and unavoidable part of life, but the way we experience suffering is determined by our understanding of it (Hayes et al., 1999).

Also essential to the foundation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is its take on the role of human language in human suffering. Understood through Relational Frame Theory, human language as a process results in destruction, dysfunction, and pathological processes (Hayes et al., 1999). Language is necessary for the advancement of human society and each individual, however; the associations we make through language eventually cause us misery. Relational Frame Theory (RFT) suggests that through behavioral conditioning language itself can affect how we feel. As we learn language, conditioning creates “mutual entailment” or bi-directionality in associations between words, feelings, and things. It is in this way that children learn that words and things are equivalent (Hayes et al., 1999). However, it is his essential feature in learning to communicate with others that can later cause us a great deal of suffering. Since the words we have learned trigger the images and feelings they have been paired with in our past; we are prone to sometimes feel emotional pain unnecessarily. Just as when you think of the word “lemon”, you have an immediate reaction to taste sour you can have a response to the word “anxiety”, such that thinking about the word “anxiety” can make you feel anxious. This creates problems because as most people try to avoid feeling unpleasant feelings; they cause themselves the very feelings they are trying to avoid. For example, to think, “Don’t get anxious!” includes the thought of “anxiety”, and thus feelings of anxiety (Hayes et al., 1999; Orsillo & Roemer, 2005). These conditioned relationships in our minds are the result of often life long patterns of association, and thus are also quite difficult associations to break up. And, in fact, though we can break them up they quite often resurge (Hayes et al., 1999).

Through ACT individuals learn to reduce the impact of conditioned language associations on their feelings and actions. ACT takes the position that because of the way we process language, according to RFT, our typical methods for solving problems logically in the outside world are inappropriate for solving problems with thoughts and feelings. We tend to assume that we must simply determine the reason for some unpleasant feeling or behavior and remove it, to remedy unpleasant feelings or consequences. This leads us to the culturally supported idea that thoughts and feelings are good explanations for what we do. So, though we have the capability to act contrary to our thoughts and feelings, we assume that to control our actions we must control the feelings and thoughts associated with them. However, as RFT indicates, the more we endeavor to control our thoughts the more we will suffer from them. Therefore an important feature of ACT is to reduce experiential avoidance, or the unwillingness to experience certain feelings (Hayes et al., 1999; Orsillo & Roemer, 2005). What we have to realize is that it is perfectly normal to feel unpleasant feelings at times and that the objective to control, reduce, or rid ourselves of these feelings is not a successful approach (Hayes et al., 1999).

ACT suggests that the alternative to experiential avoidance is acceptance, and mindfulness, as in accepting that feeling unpleasant sometimes is a natural and necessary part of life. ACT also suggests that choice and committed action are more appropriate ways to deal with life than avoidance. ACT’s goals include the shift from understanding words as content to context; learning to understand both the benefits of language and how it can affect us negatively when we do not take into account the learning context (Hayes et al., 1999).  ACT seeks to undermine unworkable change agendas, such as experiential avoidance, by helping clients realize their refusal to feel and accept causes more pain. In addition, ACT seeks to help individuals identify and clarify their life direction and goals. ACT therapists endeavor to suspend their own judgment regarding what goals a person should have, because from the ACT perspective, the appropriateness of goals is subjective, and the client should pursue those goals important to them (Hayes et al., 1999).

Therapeutic tools used in ACT, to reach ACT consistent goals, include: the use of metaphors, therapeutic paradox, and experiential exercises (Hayes et al., 1999). Metaphors are used to reduce the impact of literal language and to prevent the client from simply following the requests of the therapist without achieving true understanding. Since metaphors cannot be exactly interpreted, they cannot be exactly followed; the client is forced to experience and understand rather than rely on the therapist’s direction (Hayes et al., 1999). Therapeutic paradox is similarly used to reduce the impact of literal language on the client. The client is given a task where they can experience the consequences of not avoiding their symptoms, which typically includes a reduction in the symptom. Experiential Exercises can also be used to change the verbal context of situations, so that the client can learn to observe and study their feelings without imposing judgment on them. ACT methods include many metaphors and experiential exercises to address different problems and different frames of mind. Another tool used by ACT therapists is creating “hopelessness” in clients by pointing out the failure of previously used methods to control their feelings. This technique motivates the client to accept new ways of understanding their problems and new solutions for them (Hayes et al., 1999). As mentioned above, ACT therapists help clients explore their values and help them learn to lead their lives in accordance with these values. This last phase of treatment is often more behaviorally oriented than other phases of ACT; it includes intense discussion over the client’s values and behavioral strategies to assist the client in reducing discrepancies between their actions and values (Hayes et al., 1999).

Recent years have seen an explosion in ACT-related research and the effectiveness of ACT in many different populations and with many different diagnoses. Hayes and associates continue to conduct training seminars, workshops, and conferences devoted to the promotion and further development of ACT theory and methods. Clinicians also continue to develop a wider variety of useful metaphors and experiential exercises to inspire clients to a new understanding of their problems and motivate them to “ACT” in line with their values (Hayes et al., 1999).

The ACT Matrix: How to Maximize Your Intake Sessions

The ACT Matrix: How to Maximize Your Intake Sessions

by Jacob Martinez, MA, LPC

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than conducting an intake session with a new client. Especially an intake session where the client leaves feeling heard, and excited to take part in the treatment ahead. Over the years I’ve been tweaking and adjusting my methods for intakes.

As an ACT therapist who takes a very active approach, it’s important to me that the work begins as early as possible (yes, even on session one). My main goals when conducting an intake are to allow space for the client to tell their story, then begin to work with the client collaboratively in sorting their story out in an ACT consistent way. We focus on experiential learning and simplicity.

If we can build this solid foundation early—really get to the heart of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Then the client’s goals begin to align with treatment and clients leave the office with a healthy dose of hope. They are often, dare I say, eager to complete their homework and show it off at the next session. From there, the rest of the work flows – and it all begins in session one.

Intake sessions are, in my opinion, the most important moment in the therapeutic process. What is the secret to conducting these intakes? Why, the ACT Matrix! I’ve learned to apply the ACT Matrix in such a way as to structure the intake session so that it maximizes rapport building, defines treatment goals, and increases the likelihood of clients returning for their next session.

Starting with The Matrix in session one also helps me keep applying ACT in a consistent manner throughout the course of treatment. If all of this piques your interest, I invite you to check out our on-demand training, “Conducting Intake Sessions with The ACT Matrix.”

I’ll walk you through how to structure ACT consistent intake sessions, how to conduct an ACT Matrix with any client, and give you my scripts of how I set up and explain each step of the process in clear and simple way that you can use with clients instantly.

Jacob Martinez, MA, LPC is an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) therapist and trainer living in Wisconsin. He is the former President of the Texas ACBS Chapter and host of ACT Naturally where he interviews great therapists, talks mental health & wellness, and demonstrates ACT skills. Learn more about his work at ACTNaturally.net Learn more about Jacob Martinez, MA, LPC and other trainers on our Trainers page.

 

Understanding ACT, DBT, and FAP: Similarities and Differences

Understanding ACT, DBT, and FAP: Similarities and Differences

by Michel Reyes, Ph.D.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) are all considered ‘third-wave’ behavior therapies. Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are considered empirically supported treatments (ESTs), while Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, though also a principle-based behavior treatment, has yet to amass the same level of empirical validation. New learners of ACT, DBT, and FAP often struggle to distinguish these treatments from each other on the basis of more than their topography. Here, we provide a description of key features of these treatments and their similarities and differences.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a principle-based behavioral therapy in which clinicians have a wide range of treatment strategies and protocols that can be used with flexibility according to the client presentation in any particular point in time. DBT is an intersection between behavior therapy and Zen contemplative practice held together with a dialectical philosophy, these three are the foundations of DBT. The Behavioral foundation of DBT is linked to Arthur A. Staats psychological behaviorism and translate in DBT as the adoption of a scientific approach to the study and treatment of behavior, the application of learning theory to explain people’s behavior and the use of empirically supported Behavior Therapy assessment and treatment procedures. Zen foundations can be observed in the introduction of concepts such as Mindfulness and Radical Acceptance, the notion of pain as part of existence, the recognition that the denial of pain creates suffering, and several others. And the dialectical foundations can be noticed in DBT holistic view of behavior and the transactional perspective it takes to its understanding, the adoption of a dialectical perspective in which every perspective on reality is true but partial and so complimentary. And also, DBT embraces a dialectical approach in basically any aspect of DBT such as its biosocial theory, the balance between acceptance and change strategies and the balance between modifying client behavior and changing clients environment. Some distinctive features of comprehensive DBT are the presence of different treatment modalities aimed to develop client’s skills, generalized them, enhance motivation to use them, structure the environment and enhance therapists’ skills and motivation. DBT is an Empirically Supported treatment for adults and adolescents’ problems characterized by great emotion regulation difficulties and severe impulsivity.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is a treatment rooted in the philosophy of science known as Functional Contextualism and the behaviorism wave known as Contextual Behavioral Science. ACT is, in many senses, the application of Relational Frame Theory, a contextual behavioral approach to the study of language and cognition, to the understanding and treatment of client self-regulatory behavior. ACT therapists seek to promote psychological flexibility, which is the skill to remain aware in the presence of discomfort while behavior is organized according to what is valuable in that particular moment. The way ACT therapists accomplish this is through developing acceptance of aversive private events, present moment awareness and committed action, which is behavior-oriented with the person individual values. ACT targets the tendency to follow ineffective rules, especially those that promote experiential avoidance at the expense of a valued life, through the use of metaphors, experiential exercises and defusion techniques. ACT is an empirically supported intervention for problems related to experiential avoidance and, more broadly, psychological inflexibility.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP)
Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, or FAP, is closer to Skinner’s radical behaviorism. It is based on the observation that client’s behavior outside and inside therapy session is, in general, functionally equivalent. And so, the occurrence of behavior inside a session provides a great opportunity to make hypotheses about its controlling variables and a great opportunity to intervention. FAP technique is the application of five rules, this could be understood as observing the occurrence of Clinically Relevant Behaviors abbreviated as CRBs in session, the use therapists natural reactions to evoke CRB, reinforce desirable behavior, and if everything worked well enough analyzing the interaction between client and therapists and generalize desirable behavior shaped and reinforced in session to clients natural environment.

Similarities and Differences between DBT, ACT, and FAP
In this moment, the commonalities I find between DBT and ACT are the notion of suffering as a product of trying to avoid or suppress uncomfortable experience and attachment to rules about the way things and oneself are supposed to work, the goal of creating a life perceive as valuable or worth living, and the integration of acceptance and change, or commitment, interventions to enhance clients ability to stay mindful in the presence of uncomfortable situations while remaining aware of their values and goals, so that they can choose to behave in a conscious or effective way towards their life choosing directions. Both treatments make use of functional analysis, metaphors, experiential exercises and unconventional uses of language to help clients reframe their experience. The main differences would be that DBT adopts a more educative approach while ACT emphasizes an experiential one, DBT adopts a biosocial perspective on behavior while ACT perspective is contextual, DBT philosophy is dialectical while ACT is functional contextualistic, DBT is a treatment applied to a group of community of clients by a community of clinicians and ACT is much more used as an individual intervention although it can be adapted to group or commentary interventions. Both treatments have very specific strategies that make them unique. Also, ACT and FAP, targets functional classes of behavior, while DBT has very clear target priorities that aren’t defined by its function but by their severity.

Other similarities are that DBT, ACT, and FAP put a lot of attention to the transaction between therapist and client’s behavior and the observation of parallels between clients in session and out of session behavior. Also, these 3 therapy models target clients in session behavior as a way to strength client’s useful behaviors that can be generalized to their natural environment. Maybe the differences would be that FAP makes a greater emphasis in the disclosing of therapist’s reactions as a way to evoke and reinforce client’s desirable actions, while DBT and ACT therapists use self-disclosure in more moderated fashion and for additional purposes. Again, DBT has a specific target hierarchy of in session client’s behavior and specific strategies, ACT targets classes of behavior and they have specific strategies to target in session behavior, FAP targets are defined ideographically and since it depends on therapists natural reactions is difficult to define specific treatment processes and strategies.

Dr. Reyes has worked in the development of three public sector outpatient clinics for persons with severe emotion dysregulation problems and coordinated the implementation of a DBT based program in 52 schools in Guadalajara Jalisco. He is co-founder of Mexico’s CBS & Therapy Institute where he coordinates an outpatient DBT program. Michel has published four books in Spanish, two manuals on emotion regulation, another on Functional Analytic Psychotherapy, and co-authored a manual on ACT for grief-related problems. These titles include Functional Analytic PsychotherapyEmotion Regulation in the Clinical Practice, and Acceptance and Commitment treatment of Grief.

Pin It on Pinterest