Building Bridges - BABCP ACT SIG Conference

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The ancient capital city of Edinburgh in Scotland played host to the most modern advances in Contextual Behavioural Science, ACT & RFT in late November 2016. This was the third conference, jointly hosted by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy ACT Special Interest Group and the UK & Ireland Chapter. There were two days of preconference workshops, at an introductory (Joe Oliver and Richard Bennet) and advanced (Robyn Walser) level as well as one day preconference workshops on adapting ACT for people who have been diagnosed with personality disorder (Helen Bolderston) and on creating psychological flexibility in communities and organisations (Ross White).

The conference itself spanned two days, and had 5 streams of thematically organised content: ‘Basic science and RFT’, ‘Meeting points between ACT and other approaches’, ‘Interventions beyond the therapy room’, ‘Working with complexity’, and a general stream. Within those streams we had data driven symposia, skills classes, and panel debates. The overall conference theme was ‘Building Bridges’. We aimed to bring together clinicians and researchers from different schools: ACT, Behaviour analysis, Cognitive Therapy, Compassion Focussed Therapy and other mindfulness oriented traditions to name a few. In addition, we wished to build bridges between basic and applied concerns. As a result, our keynote plenary sessions had speakers from ACT, CFT, RFT and other traditions, covering themes such as ‘Clinical Applications of RFT (Louise McHugh),’ ‘Using CFT to build bridges between ourselves and others’ (Mary Welford), ‘Towards a culture of cooperation in psychotherapy research (Helen Bolderston).

The conference final keynote (Robyn Walser) spoke movingly of building bridges between ourselves as the human species and the ecosystem in which we live. An especially strong theme in Robyn’s talk was of our relationship with animals and the dire and urgent threats faced by animals across the globe due to human activities (climate change, destruction of habitat and poaching). The slides and audio of Robyn’s talk will be made available in the near future, through the usual channels of the list serve and website.

Perhaps the strongest bridges built during those last days of November, were those of social and professional networks. It was moving and gladdening to spend time with old friends and connections and to see new relationships being made, in the spirit of shared values, openness, and commitments.

Each day of the event saw between 104 and 173 delegates attend the spacious and modern Edinburgh International Conference Centre, in the heart of Edinburgh. We also had a welcome reception, with posters showcasing research and clinical work from all over the world. Of course, no ACBS event would be complete without The Follies, and in true folly style we lampooned and laughed, taking things lightly across 22 ‘unique’ acts. In amongst the funnies, Martin Wilks courageously sang, from the heart, an emotional song in dedication to Ross Chernin, a member of the UK ACT community who had sadly passed away in October. It is a testament to this community that we could be open to that, be moved by it and carry it with us into the rest of the Follies. The follies ended with dancing to a special guest return appearance by DJ CFunc (Eric Morris), back in the UK especially for the event!

On the back of the conference, the UK & Ireland Chapter Board is being reinvigorated, with a call for nominations for a new Chapter board (by end of Jan). To nominate go to:

Finally, we used the conference to launch an effort to fundraise to send peer reviewed ACT trainers to deliver training for developing nations. The project has reached 28% of its target, if you are interested in donating to this project please go to:

It is our hope that we can organise further conferences in the future, particularly for years where the world conference is outside of Europe. We can’t at this stage commit to doing so, but please know that it is in our intention. The very earliest you might see that would be autumn / winter 2018.

If you were there in Edinburgh, thank you for coming, you were awesome!

To join the ACBS World Conference in Spain in June, 2017, please go here:

David Gillanders
Conference Organising Chair