The ACT Matrix
Kevin Polk in private practice and at the VA in Togus, Maine, USA has collaborated with Jerold Hambright and Mark Webster to develop "The Matrix" as a way of thinking about and engendering psychological flexibility. It is a simple yet elegant way to understand and experience the complex phenomenon of being human.
The Matrix is a simple to use format developed initially for groups, but then came into wide use with individuals. Based on an original idea by Kevin Polk the format was co-developed with Mark Webster and Jerold Hambright. It is based on learning to discriminate between direct experiencing with the senses and indirect experiencing in the mind (vertical line), and then the idea of sorting behavior into two directions called Towards and Away (horizontal line). The two lines of the matrix intersect in the middle at 90 degree angles. The four quadrants created by the two lines contain the following four categories that are asked in the following order:
1. Lower Right: Who and What's Important to You?
2. Lower Left: What can show up inside of you (like fear) and get in the way of moving toward who and what's important?
3. Upper Left: What observable behaviors do you do to move away from the uncomfortable inner stuff (like fear)?
4. Upper Right: What could you do to move toward who and what's important to you?
Once the two noticing the difference tasks are established and the four questions are asked, then any person with language can sort words and sentences into the four quadrants of the matrix to increase psychological flexibility. It's important to remember that the accuracy of the sorting is not important; it's the behavior of sorting that increases psychological flexibility.
Learning to use the Matrix is experiential and much the same as learning to ride a horse, or a bike, or play the piano, or paddle a kayak. It is a simple idea that can be learned very quickly but takes a little time and practice to become proficient. Mainly people practice learning to notice where behaviors are taking them, and to align that with what is important. The simplicity of the model means that it is broadly applicable and can be used outside of the clinical setting, for instance it is already used in education and in the workplace. It's been used in Sierra Leone to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus and in prisons to help inmates improve value consistent behaviors.
Read more about Polk's work on his Psychological Flexibility Blog.
Check out the series on YouTube:
- The Matrix: Psychological Flexibility Warmup
- The Matrix: Psychological Flexibility Values Video
- The Matrix: Moving Away
- The Matrix: Noticing Hooks
Also visit the older blog The ACT Matrix. Check out the Pages in the upper right of the page.
Mark Webster has also created a 3 part video series introducing the ACT Matrix which can be found here:
Click here for upcoming workshops and trainings.
Below you will find various handouts and .pdfs about the matrix cultivated from trainings anf conference presentations.