Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Functional Contextualism, and Clinical Social Work

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APA Citation: 

Boone, M. S., Mundy, B., Morrissey Stahl, K., & Genrich, B. E. (2015). Acceptance and commitment therapy, functional contextualism, and clinical social work. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 25(6), 643-656.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Conceptual
CBS: Conceptual
RFT: Conceptual
Publication Type: 
Acceptance commitment therapy, social work, evidence based practice, functional contextualism, contextual behavioral science, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy

The practice of clinical social work requires interventions that are consistent with social work values, applicable across a range of presenting problems, capable of being applied in multiple contexts, supported by extensive research, and consonant with social work’s person-in-environment perspective. This article discusses the fit between social work and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy that meets all of these criteria. ACT is based on a philosophy of science, functional contextualism, that focuses on the behavior of individuals within their historical and situational contexts. ACT draws on a comprehensive theory of language, relational frame theory (RFT), which accounts for the influence of culturally shaped language processes on learning and human behavior. ACT and RFT are supported by a growing body of research that supports ACT’s efficacy with a wide variety of problems and suggests that ACT works by its theorized mechanism of change. ACT can be delivered in an array of formats and is easily accessible for those seeking training, and ACT offers a nonstigmatizing, universalizing approach to alleviating suffering that positions social workers and clients as subject to the same, normally occurring processes of human behavior.

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