In addition to being a psychotherapist and a school psychologist, I have been a young adult who struggled with the challenges and stresses that are a part of navigating higher education as well as entry into adulthood. I have been a working professional, a private businessman facing the hurdles involved in both starting and successfully sustaining an avocation, a spouse, a father, and a son struggling with the challenges of caring for an elderly parent. It is these experiences, coupled with my professional training, that I bring into each session with my clients. As previously mentioned, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is an active and collaborative form of psychotherapy. That is, it is not a therapy where we just talk about problems. In therapy we will identify what areas of the client’s life are not currently working as they wish, identify who and how they want to be in life, and actively learn new skills that will allow the individual to take committed action in pursuit of living a more rich, full, and meaningful life. Upon a client’s first visit I will endeavor to take a full psycho-social and medical history. We will then discuss what challenges the individual is currently experiencing as well as what expectations they have for therapy and what goals they wish to achieve. In that the quality of the client-therapist relationship has been shown to be one of, if not the most important factor related to a successful treatment outcome, I believe it is imperative that the client feels comfortable and confident that we are a good match and that our goals and expectations are aligned. Likewise, it is imperative that I believe that I can competently help facilitate their psychological growth and well-being.
Above all else, ACT therapy is behaviorally oriented. That is, the therapist works with the client to develop clear goals, both short-term and long-term, and develop action plans to and a road map on how to best achieve these goals. Together we will discern how we will be able to know if the therapy is working and reassess and alter goals and action plans as therapy progresses.
Another important component of ACT is for the client to actively engage in exercises between sessions. As most clients come to therapy desiring and motivated to make rapid and often radical changes in their lives and often feel stuck and powerless to bring about such change, it is imperative that the client works on practicing and implementing newly learned skills. To facilitate this change, I will most always give clients exercises to practice between sessions and I encourage clients to communicate with me via email during the week, informing me of their experiences, progress, setbacks, as well as any concerns or questions they may have. Such dialogue fosters mindful self-reflection and awareness which, as mentioned, play such an important part in moving forward.
Finally, while time in therapy varies and depends on the client and the nature of the challenges to be addressed, once a client decides to move forward with therapy, I usually ask them to commit to a minimum of six to eight sessions before assessing if they are realizing some of the benefits they had hoped for. Such a period is considered brief relative to most psychotherapeutic interventions; however, my experience has been that this period of time is usually sufficient for both client and me to gauge whether we are engaged in an appropriate and effective mode of treatment.