Become More Psychologically Flexible
Coaches, when you help your clients become more psychologically-flexible they will get unstuck and have greater success in meeting their coaching goals.
The original six core processes that lead to clients being psychologically inflexible were originally described in the ACT Hexaflex Model (see Figure # 1.) or ACT Model of Psychopathology (Strosahl, et. al, 2004).
Figure # 1. The Hexaflex Model
Let me give you a quick rundown on the six core processes that lead to psychological inflexibility and getting stuck.
1. Attachment to the conceptualized self. This is also known as having a self-as-content view. When people take a self-as-content view of they see themselves as the sum total of their thoughts.
2. Cognitive fusion. Cognitive fusion is over-identification with one aspect of the conceptualized self. When people fuse with one aspect of their conceptualized selves they use phrases such as “I am a runner”, or “I am an asthmatic.” This can create stress when the fusion limits other options and ways of viewing potential stressors.
3. Dominance of outmoded scripts and learning. This involves being hooked into believing unhelpful and outdated versions of the conceptualized self. People often view these outdated scripts as barriers to setting goals and committing to take action.
4. Experiential avoidance. People who are psychologically inflexible often avoiding taking values-congruent action because it is easier and less painful to do so than to try something new or to change some aspect of their lives.
5. Lack of clarity of values. People are often unclear of their values and the direction their lives should be moving in.
6. Inaction, Impulsivity, and Rigidity (Avoidant Persistence). These three processes can be lumped together and best understood as the inability to behave effectively with regard to values-congruent behavior. They are mostly associated with having a conceptualized self view, cognitive, fusion, experiential avoidance, and dominance of past outmoded personal scripts and learning.
ACT theory and practice shows how these key factors contribute to getting stuck by limiting the ability to deal with situations in new and creative ways. When clients are psychologically inflexible, they have fewer options available to help them overcome barriers and make progress meeting their values-based goals. Coaching clients can get unstuck by applying the same core process used by ACT therapists around the world.
A New Model
While the Hexaflex Model and the core processes have their utility, they did not present the dynamic that exists as clients move away from being stuck and towards being unstuck. This dynamic movement and process is an integral part of a new model developed by Anstiss and Blonna (2014) called the Ramp Model (see figure # 2).
The Ramp Model illustrates how the core processes facilitate client growth and movement from psychological inflexibility to flexibility. It is a key construct in Acceptance and Commitment (AC) Coaching. AC Coaching applies the principles and practices of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, to coaching.
Figure # 2. The Ramp Model
Anstiss and Blonna (2014) recast the six core processes that facilitate this movement as Tools and Techniques so they are more easily understood by coaching clients. How they replace the six core therapeutic processes is depicted in the following way.
1. Valued living (defining valued directions). This technique helps coaching clients clarify what really matters to them, their values, and explore how they may manifest their values or live more fully in harmony with them over the coming weeks and months
2. Contact with the Present Moment (mindfulness). This tool teaches clients how to pay attention with openness, flexibility and curiosity to what is happening in the present moment.
3. Committed Action (commitment). This technique involves helping clients take committed action towards important life goals which are in harmony with their values (aka; values-congruent goals).
4. Acceptance (acceptance). This tool helps clients accept, allow, tolerate, be willing to have and make room for unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, especially when taking values-congruent action.
5. Observing Self (self-as-context). This technique helps clients notice their thinking and defuse from and gain separation and distance from their thoughts. It helps them realize that they are more than just their thoughts, and allows them to see their thoughts as objects of consciousness that rise and fall, that come and go, and over which they have little control.
6. Disentanglement (cognitive defusion). This tool helps clients cultivate and view the world from the perspective of the observing self – that silent, quiet part of oneself that persists through time, observing and noticing change in the world, containing all the changes that go on inside a person’s head but which does not itself get caught up in those changes.
The process of AC Coaching is helping clients progress up the ramp – perhaps first working on one skill, and then another. In reality, the AC coach works with the client on several skills in any one particular coaching session, and the skills are all rather interconnected. For example, when you cultivate the perspective of the observing self you most likely have also defused from some unhelpful beliefs.
Anstiss, T., Blonna, R. (2014). Acceptance and Commitment Coaching, in Passamore , J. (Ed). Mastery in Coaching: A Complete Psychological Toolkit for Advanced Coaches. London: Kogan Page.
Strosahl, K., Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G. and Gifford, E. V. (2004) ‘An ACT primer: Core therapy processes, intervention strategies, and therapist competencies’, in S. C. Hayes and K. Strosahl (eds) A practical guide to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, New York: Springer.