Learning ACT: A Skills-Training Manual for Therapists Learning Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Learning ACT is a comprehensive and unique workbook, designed specifically for therapists seeking to expand their knowledge of and competency with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The book provides an overview of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of ACTand RFT. However, LearningACT is designed to go beyond the philosophy, theory, concepts, and verbal knowledge of techniques to the actual production of skills and competencies. We have deliberately written it in a style that is lightly referenced and accessible because our focus is on the practical. Thus, it is our hope that, by reading the book, clinicians will gain not only a basic understanding of the theory behind the therapy, but will be empowered to begin to apply the techniques in their practices.
Using the book:
As many of you experienced with ACT know, ACT is something you "do", not something you talk about. In ACT, it is not only verbal knowledge that will guide you through the therapy; knowing by experience (i.e., experiential knowledge) is also key to understanding and to providing quality therapy. There is a strong tradition of experiential learning within the ACT model, both in our work with clients and in our trainings. The Learning ACT workbook is based on this model. As such, it is designed to be a highly interactive educational tool. Clinicians will learn not only through the material presented but also through their own work with the numerous exercises, role plays, vignettes, and also the extensive DVD that accompanies the book. Learning ACT is like attempting to learn the violin. You can read a book about how to hold the bow or how the musical scales function. However, simply reading about playing does not make you a violinist. Practice is essential. Although reading (verbal knowledge) can teach you "how to hold the bow," the exercises in this book are designed to help you begin to play the violin (experiential knowledge).
What is included in the book:
The introduction and first chapter of this workbook provide an overview of the theory behind ACT and some tools to help you think about cases from an ACT perspective. Specifically, chapter 1 outlines the ways in which basic learning processes, combined with the problematic effects of language, lead to increased suffering for humans. The ACT theory of change is also outlined in chapter 1. Chapters 2 through 7 and chapter 9 focus on the core competency areas to be learned by the ACT clinician. The first six of these chapters focus on the six core therapeutic processes, and the last one focuses on the therapeutic relationship in ACT. Each chapter includes a description of basic metaphors, stories, and techniques used in connection with that competency, as well as client/clinician demonstrations of each technique, and ends with a practical writing assignment in which you are asked to apply the principles you have learned to various sample client materials. Each chapter also addresses when to use the process discussed, how to address common problems that arise when implementing that process, and at least one experiential exercise. Chapter 8 begins the process of integrating all you have learned in the previous chapters by guiding you through case conceptualization and treatment planning from an ACT perspective and giving you an opportunity to apply an ACT model to practice cases. Finally, in Chapter 10, you are asked to engage exercises and material intended to help you integrate all you have learned to this point.
The DVD which comes with the book complements the book by providing role-played examples of the core competencies, with trained actors playing the clients. The DVD provides models of exercises and techniques in a manner that could not be adequately demonstrated in written form. One good way to use it is to play each clip and then pause the playback before the narrator describes what was being done. Try to determine what fit or did not fit with the ACT model in the clip, and only then let the narrator describe his or her thinking. This start-and-stop method is especially recommended for workshops or classroom use of the book and DVD package. We recommend reading the corresponding chapter in the book before watching a section of the DVD. For more information and problem-solving help for using the DVD, see the FAQ.
Learningact.com is the companion website to the book, Learning ACT. The website has a number of resources on ACT and for those new to ACT. It also includes a blog about ACT and mindfulness. The website has a forum function where readers can discuss the book.