Sunday, September 15, 2013

ACT Bootcamp, September 2013

        I recently traveled to lake Buena Vista, Florida for a four day professional training in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). I have written about ACT elsewhere and even mentioned other training on ACT but this event was special. Entitled "ACT Bootcamp," the event lived up to the name; thirteen hour days starting at 8:30am with a one hour lunch and dinner break, ACT Bootcamp wrapped up at 9:30pm (or later if speakers went over time).

Steve Hayes and Jacque Pistorello opening the ACT Bootcamp in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, September, 2013

The four days started with a moving introduction to ACT by Kelly Wilson, one of the founders of ACT. I have read Kelly's book and heard him interviewed on podcasts so, I knew he was a soft-spoken guy with a very gentle approach to the work he does but were we ever in for a treat. Kelly's approach to mindfulness is really quite unique and very confluent to how I describe yoga (perhaps it's no surprise that Kelly is a yoga practitioner himself!). Kelly appears to treat every moment in the therapeutic relationship as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. This means that mindfulness is not relegated to the three minutes you spend with your eyes closed querying your body for sensations. I really appreciated this approach and have successfully integrated it into my direct practice; I continue to be excited by the draw and accessibility of mindfulness practices.

Steve Hayes took over for day two and three giving us the full Steve Hayes experience. He fluctuated from nerdy, using scientific data and behavioural terms to humorous, Bootcampers laughing out loud from his observations, one liners, and dropping of his g's. I was really moved by Steve's presentation about compassion and how he related it back to Sandy Hook. I have heard Steve speak about the necessity for cultivating compassion in podcast interviews and in other workshops but the message was very strong at this Bootcamp and we found ourselves leaving for lunch on day two upon the completion of his Sandy Hook presentation in silence, much of the Bootcamp attendees with tears in their eyes. I was later both amused and intrigued by Steve's use of evolutionary science and it's implications for Relational Frame Theory and ACT. The concepts of compassion and evolutionary science intersected with Steve making it clear, working together, compassionately is the evolutionary drive for man.

Steve Hayes (left) and Tim. A proud moment for me to meet the man behind so many inspiring books and articles.

        I once again had the pleasure of hearing Benjamin Schoendorff present his training on ACT. This was my second experience with Benji so I withheld taking notes during his presentation, really wishing to take in all of the exercises and simply wrap-up my Bootcamp experience fully in the moment, not busy scribbling.

I think everyone else did the same... I noticed what appeared to be full immersion from Bootcamp attendees in Benji's presentation. It seems like the theory, data, and concepts of the last three days were culminating into this perfect storm of application on day four. Benji handled it well. Honest, heart-felt questions came from participants, some new to ACT, some veterans like myself trying to figure out specific interventions to serve their clients and Benji responded with exactly what was needed. Not only did his knowledge of ACT shine but so did his combination of sister-science Functional Analytic Psychotherapy and his own role modelling of the processes. My experience was that Benji was challenging us, the therapists to role model and live the work we're undertaking with our clients.

Benji asks Bootcampers to "just notice clinically relevant behaviour."

Overall, my bootcamp experience was special, deeply moving, personal, and worth the travel to be a part of.

Timothy Gordon, MSW
Hamilton, Ontario

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