Helping Clients Get Unstuck

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An AC and ACT-based approach to coaching assumes that coaching clients are whole, functional, and do not have DSM V mental disorders. They are just stuck.

Often they are stuck on painful emotions like fear, worry and anxiety. Other times they are stuck on illogical, unhelpful, troubling thoughts.

These painful emotions and troubling thoughts contribute to their psychological inflexibility, the real reason for getting and staying stuck.

ACT identifies six processes related to developing greater psychological flexibility and getting unstuck.
They are: (1) defining valued directions, (2) acceptance training, (3) commitment (taking action), (4) being present (developing mindfulness), (5) cognitive defusion, and (6) self-as-context.


Here is a brief rundown on what these processes mean:


Defining Valued Directions:

Values are the motivational link for commitment to action. People commit to goals because they value what they need to do and where they need to go more than they value being stuck in the rut. There are four steps to defining valued directions: (1) exploring values, (2) choosing and ranking values, (3) publicly affirming values, and (4) acting on values.


Acceptance Training:
Acceptance training revolves around helping people accept the things they can’t control and coexist with the pain and suffering that accompanies taking action. Acceptance training reinforces commitment training, because it prepares people to continue moving toward their goals despite the conflicts and roadblocks that make it difficult to do so.

Commitment (taking action):
Taking action starts with setting clear goals. For goal setting to be meaningful it must reflect people’s values. Clear values-based goals and measurable objectives reduce ambiguity and provide structure and a framework for taking action. Taking action is easier if it is based on clear goals and measurable objectives. Commitment is the action component of acceptance.


Mindfulness: Mindfulness can be characterized as moment-by-moment awareness. Mindfulness can be developed through informal and formal training. Informal mindfulness training revolves around developing attention-building skills. Informal training involves using short activities to help people become more aware of internal (thoughts, scripts, etc.) and external environment) stimuli. Formal mindfulness training involves learning and practicing mindful meditation.



Cognitive Defusion:

Cognitive defusion revolves around learning how to defuse from unhelpful aspects of the conceptualized self. Defusion activities help people learn how to separate themselves from their unhelpful thinking that creates stress.



ACT theory proposes an alternative view to the conceptualized-self perspective. A self-as context view, also known as the observer-self view, allows people to step back and appraise their thoughts, personal scripts, mental images, and emotions in a more objective way. Observer-self training allows people to examine internal stimuli in terms of it’s helpfulness in meeting goals that are consistent with their values.


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