“Nothing is still happening in the past” (Eckhart Tolle)
ACT4Kids is based on ACT for adults: Acceptance and Commitment Training or Therapy. ACT is a form of behavioral therapy, developed in the US at the end of the 20th century by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson and Kirk Strosahl. Since 2010, ACT has been officially recognized as a proven effective approach used by both therapists and councellors.
ACT is a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means being fully in contact with the present moment as a conscious human being, based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values. ACT is an accessible and short-term form of counseling in complex as well as less complex problems. Scientific outcomes prove ACT to have consistently positive long-term results.
ACT is a contextual approach: the person in his entire social and physical environment is being taken into account, with all his dimensions and his historical and current situation. ACT professionals are organised in the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science.
ACT consists of six core processes that lead to psychological flexibility, allowing the client more freedom in behavioral choices. These processes are: contact with the now (being present), values (knowing what is really important to you), dedicated action (doing what is necessary to act on your values), the self as context (dealing with yourself and your self-image in a flexible manner), defusion (being able to distance yourself from your thoughts) and acceptance (being able to open yourself up, also to unpleasant experiences).
ACT assumes that our brain is strongly solution-oriented. We can look back to the past and forward to the future, even though these worlds do not exist in the here and now. This is what Eckhart Tolle indicated with the above statement.
When we think about bad things that have happened in the past or could happen in the future, this may also evoke bad feelings. We strive to avoid these feelings as much as possible. When we avoid contact with the inner experience of the negative thoughts that just come and go like clouds floating by, this leads to self-limiting behavior. We go into survival mode: we fight, flee or freeze. We tend to stick to one of these survival modes even if the real threat has long since passed. We get hooked by the painful experience and avoid new experiences.
ACT teaches you to accept the inner experience for what it is: a stream of thoughts and sensations that the brain produces. Part of what your brain tells you is good advice, the other part is bad advice. By giving space to feelings and looking at them from a distance, the client increasingly notices the difference between constructive and bad advice.
Through metaphors and exercises the counselor helps the client to create distance between words and the experiences these words refer to. This allows the client to detach himself better and better from the painful, inner experience. ACT refers to this process as ‘defusion’: first you were fused, attached to a feeling or belief about yourself and gradually you become defused from these inner experiences and behavior.
Once you can observe your feelings from a distance, this creates space and thereby frees energy to take back control of your life and give meaning to your existence through dedicated action, bases on what is really important and worthwhile for you.