Post 51 – ACBS World Conference 2018 Preview

A different post in my blog from usual, which I am feeling both excited and very nervous around. In this post am going to offer a preview of some of the workshops to be held at the Association of Contextual Behavioural Science World Conference later this year.

Excited as this has allowed me to make a small contribution to ACBS, within which Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) resides. Nervous as I have never done a preview of a conference, there will a lot of new readers, many who know so much more about these topics and who have no idea who I am, as well existing readers who may wonder what this is all about. Hopefully by the end I won’t be so nervous and you will be feel a little more informed. And if you are attending ACBS World Conference, perhaps a little excited too.

Indulge me for a minute – I am not a professional, not a therapist nor a psychologist. I have never attended an ACBS World Conference. I am a patient/client/expert by experience/service user – insert whatever your preference is (mine is human) – who tried to understand his own head and depression by learning about therapy. Now time to own up – the main therapy was Compassion Focused Therapy but with elements of ACT, which I then went onto read about. And while I also undertook a MBCT course, it’s a combination of all three that really help me. Personally that was a powerful combination and they complement each other – I don’t really care what they called as long as they work for me. Which they do.

So you may now be wondering why I am writing a preview of some of the World Conference programme. Simply because there was a request for help and I wanted to, thanks to Courtney for allowing me to do so alongside other people. Perhaps my naive view of the workshops might bring a different perspective. Apologies if I don’t use scientific jargon or the right terms and most importantly, I hope my previews have interpreted the workshops correctly. Okay, enough disclaimers, onto the preview….

Overall impression

Wow. Simply wow. Of the workshops shared with me I was impressed with a few things. Firstly there appears to be a good blend of both male and female presenters, which is very important to see, I hope that is true for the overall conference. Secondly the breadth of the topics, from workshops to help you look after yourself as mental health professionals to workshops on certain skills and topics. Thirdly the use of role play and experiential learning which many of the workshops offer. That may be standard, I hope it is as it would seem to me to be the best way of sharing knowledge.

Now I have got to know some of the ACBS community so certain names jumped out at me, but have tried to preview without being biased to the people I know via social media. Especially Eric Morris. Eric is one of my Compassionate Yoda’s on Twitter – am I allowed to do a plug for his, along with Joe Oliver and Jon Hill, brilliant book “ACTivate Your Life ” ?
I was going to only write about some of the sessions but by the end of this I realised I have written about all that were shared with me….sorry if it’s long but couldn’t leave any out!


Perhaps you are new to ACT or would like a short refresher – then Valerie Kiel’s workshop could be for you, within which Valerie will introduce the ACT model, therapeutic approach and core concepts.

Martin Brock and Jennifer Gregg will be presenting on how ACT can help with dealing with the end of life, loss and bereavement. This caught my eye for a few reasons – it’s something we will all experience, for ourselves and for those we love. The workshop is aimed at being helpful to both clients and therapists themselves. Also Martin is from the University of Derby, fabulous to have a representation from my home town.

Sport is important to me and having dabbled in coaching would be interested in David Udelf’s workshop on using the ACT Matrix with athletes, helping them to bring a mindful focus and ways to handle distracting thoughts.

Aisling Leonard-Curtin and Matthew Skinta will be looking at the techniques and research around supporting gender and sexual minority (GSM) clients, helping clients to tackle the emotional distress and concerns this may bring them in everyday life, as well helping the therapist to build a compassionate approach.

Now while I have I highlighted the balance of male/female presenters (and yes I did count them up) there are a couple of workshops that highlight the gender imbalance which sadly often exists.

Helen Bolderston, Jacqueline Pistorello and Louise McHugh will be presenting on the challenges that female academics face in publishing, offering practical guidance and experience on helping to move through the barriers to doing so.

Under the great sounding title of “Female, fierce and fabulous” Rikke Kjelgaard will be looking at why women feel that they have to work harder and compete more, exploring how ACT could help foster more compassionate connection and empowerment.

I mentioned that compassionate therapy has been helpful to me, so very interested to see that Rikke will also be presenting “The Compassionate and Flexible Therapist” including techniques to help the therapist at times when they are struggling with a client, stuck on what to do next or when feeling anxious or stressed themselves. For me this is an important one, that therapists are human, with their own flaws, biases and challenges just like anyone else , so need to be aware of and take care of themselves as much as everyone.

So with that in mind there is also a workshop focussing on using ACT techniques to oneself as a therapist, looking to provide a self-practice and self-reflective approach to enable self-care and self-compassion in helping prevent burn out and fatigue. Such an important message. The workshop will be hosted by R. Trent Codd, M. Joann Wright, Martin Brock (did I mention from the University of Derby ?) Laura Silberstein Tirch and Dennis Tirch.

Perhaps you want some assistance with developing natural conversation with clients? There is a workshop that will help develop this through experiences and case studies, with the leads and participants taking part in role play. Using RFT principles the workshop will be very much practice based, hosted by Matthieu Villatte, Claire-Marie Best and Fabian Olaz.

Frank Bond and Jonathan Dowling will be presenting on their contextual model ALIVE, based off RFT research, which supports predicting and helping to improve peoples emotional and performance behaviours. I will leave you wondering what ALIVE stands for.

Understanding how the self develops and how that many of the challenges people face are issues of self is the theme of a workshop by Louise McHugh, using CBS/RFT terms, linking this into clinical work.

Having been in a group while undertaking MBCT I would be interested to learn more about group therapy work. M. Joan Wright and Darrah Westrup have exactly this workshop – ways to use the ACT model in group therapy sessions, with examples and demonstrations on doing so, as well highlighting the challenges this can bring.

Another workshop looking at group work is around the management of chronic pain, and what sounds fascinating – ACTiveAssessment and ACTiveRehab. Presented by Garciela Rovner and David Gillanders this will be of specific interest to those working with clients with chronic medical conditions.

Emotional regulation is such a key part of treating anxiety and depression. This workshop, hosted by Matthew McKay and Aprilia West, will look at helping with distress tolerance, emotional avoidance and rumination. Given my experience of CFT I would be interested to see how the ACT model can also assist further with healthy management of these.

One of the key parts of ACT for me is around values and aligning what is important to help with my mental wellbeing. This is a concept which may sound “big” to some and really needs to be expressed in ways which can be understood and applied by the client. So the “what”, “why”, “when”, and “how” of values sounds brilliant, hosted by Jenna LeJeune, Jason Luoma and Tobias Lundgren

Suicide prevention is such an important topic, highlighted recently by the #Project84 campaign in the UK, recognising the 84 men who die through suicide each week. It’s a challenging topic , which we shy away from talking about but we need to do so to help people at times of vulnerable distress. This workshop is aimed at demonstrating how ACT can help the client to see an alternative solution to their distress and also support the therapist. The workshop will include demonstrations and practices, lead by Sean Barnes, Robyn Walser, Debbie Sorensen, Geoffrey Smith and Lauren Borges.

A two part workshop designed to develop a technical behavioural framework for doing ACT within clinical work is offered by Matthew Boone, Emily Sandiz and Karen Kellum. In part one participants will be presented with an easy to understand, plain language behavioral vocabulary to use. Part two will provide practice on interventions to assist clients behaviour.

So I have saved the workshops Eric is involved with until last.

Eric and Sonya Batten will be presenting on enhancing clinical supervision and building strong, open relationship within a supervisory framework. This will include presenting the SHAPE framework and the context of emotions within supervision. The session will include role play and exercises.

Louise Johns joins Eric in another workshop on group intervention, this time focused on helping people living with psychosis. The workshop will highlight skills and techniques,as well as the challenges, and include the training and supervision required to assist practitioners in leading effective groups. This will include peer support, skills development, supervision guidelines and experience sharing.

So there you go, I ended up writing about all the previews I saw! Hope it was useful ahead of the full programme being published later in April. Enjoy the conference!



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