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Purpose: Allow yourself to have whatever inner experiences are present when doing so foster effective action.

Method: Reinforce approach responses to previously aversive inner experiences, reducing motivation to behave avoidantly (altering negatively reinforced avoidant patterns).

When to use: When escape and avoidance of private events prevents positive action

Examples of acceptance techniques

Unhooking Thoughts/feelings don’t always lead to action
Identifying the problem When we battle with our inner experience, it distracts and derails us. Use examples.
Explore effects of avoidance Has it worked in your life
Defining the problem What they struggle against = barriers toward heading in the direction of their goals.
Experiential awareness Learn to pay attention to internal experiences, and to how we respond to them
Leaning down the hill Changing the response to material – toward the fear not away
Amplifying responses Bring experience into awareness, into the room
Empathy Participate with client in emotional responding
In vivo Exposure Structure and encourage intensive experiencing in session
The Serenity Prayer Change what we can, accept what we can’t.
Practice doing the unfamiliar Pay attention to what happens when you don’t do the automatic response
Acceptance homework Go out and find it
Discrimination training What do they feel/think/experience?
Mindreading Help them to identify how they feel
Journaling Write about painful events
Tin Can Monster Exercise Systematically explore response dimensions of a difficult overall event
Distinguishing between clean and dirty emotions Trauma = pain + unwillingness to have pain
Distinguishing willingness from wanting Bum at the door metaphor – you can welcome a guest without being happy he’s there
How to recognize trauma Are you less willing to experience the event or more?
Distinguishing willingness the activity from willingness the feeling Opening up is more important that feeling like it
Choosing Willingness: The Willingness Question Given the distinction between you and the stuff you struggle with, are you willing to have that stuff, as it is and not as what it says it is, and do what works in this situation?
Focus on what can be changed Two scales metaphor
Caution against qualitatively limiting willingness The tantruming kid metaphor – if a kid knew your limits he’d trantrum exactly that long; Jumping exercise – you can practice jumping from a book or a building, but you can step down only from the book – don’t limit willingness qualitatively
Distinguish willing from wallowing Moving through a swamp metaphor: the only reason to go in is because it stands between you and getting to where you intend to go
Challenging personal space: Sitting eye to eye

These clinical materials were assembled by Elizabeth Gifford, Steve Hayes, and Kirk Stroshal

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