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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

A two-day workshop for clinicians working with people experiencing musculoskeletal pain.

Chronic pain can be a source of immense human suffering and disability. There is emerging evidence indicating that as pain sufferers set aside struggles for control over pain, attend to present experiences, and engage in meaningful activities, they suffer less and function better. These treatment processes are respectively referred to as acceptance, mindfulness, and values-based action. The literature suggests these processes are highly relevant in the treatment of chronic pain, where the best researched therapy model has been Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of CBT that directly targets these processes.

This workshop is designed for people who have no experience in using ACT, but who do have foundation knowledge about musculoskeletal pain as a multidimensional experience, and from a biopsychosocial or modern pain science perspective.

ACT is a “third wave” cognitive behavioural therapy that has been used with people experiencing persistent pain since before 1986. It is based on contextual behavioural science and is built upon relational frame theory. The theoretical foundation provides the scientific basis for ACT, and explains human behaviour without drawing on ideas of psychopathology. ACT can be used by anyone with appropriate training and is not a “licensed” therapeutic approach.

This workshop will provide:

  • An introduction to the theoretical foundations of ACT
  • An introduction to the six major processes (the “hexaflex”)
  • Experiential learning opportunities to model the use of ACT
  • Metaphors and psychological flexibility
  • A brief review of the recent literature on the effectiveness of ACT
  • Assessment and outcome measures used in ACT treatment

Instructor: Dr. Bronnie Thompson

Feb. 11 & 12

Available seats: 4/25

The Dana on Mission Bay, San Diego


Approved by the California Physical Therapy Association (CPTA) for physical therapists for 1.35 CEUs


Bronnie Lennox Thompson, Ph.D.

About me: I trained as an occupational therapist, and graduated in 1984. Since then I’ve continued study at postgraduate level and my papers have included business skills, ergonomics, mental health therapies, and psychology. I completed by Masters in Psychology in 1999, and started my PhD in 2007. I have many passions, but one of them is to help people experiencing chronic health problems learn to achieve their potential. I have worked in the field of chronic pain management, helping people develop ‘self management’ skills for 16 years. Many of the skills are directly applicable to people with other health conditions.

My way of working: collaboratively – all people have limitations and vulnerabilities – as well as strengths and potential. I use a cognitive and behavioural approach – therapy isn’t helpful unless there are visible changes! I don’t use this approach exclusively, because it is necessary to ‘borrow’ at times from other approaches, but I encourage ongoing evaluation of everything that is put forward as ‘therapy’.

I’m also an educator. I take this role very seriously – it is as important to health care as research and clinical skill. I offer an active knowledge of the latest research, integrated with current clinical practice, and communicated to clinicians working directly with people experiencing chronic ill health. I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Orthopaedic surgery & Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Otago Christchurch Health Sciences. Remember though: this blog represents my opinion, and not the opinion of my employer. I also offer courses, training and supervision for therapists working with people experiencing chronic ill health.

This intermediate workshop consists of lecture and demonstration.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Identify the theoretical foundations of ACT
  • Distinguish the six major process (the “hexaflex”) from one another
  • Summarize and appraise the purpose of developing psychological flexibility
  • Describe the use of assessment and outcomes measures used in ACT for pain
  • Design the “Matrix”, “choice point”, values-based actions, graded exposure, and mindfulness within their clinical practice

Feb. 11

9:00 am: Introductions

9:30 am: ACT and effectiveness

10:30 am: Break

10:45 am: Theoretical foundations of ACT, psychological flexibility

11:45 am: Introducing ACT to a new patient

12:15 pm: Lunch

1:30 pm: Experiential learning, The “Matrix” and “choice point”

4:30 pm: Break

4:45 pm: reflective learning, Experiential learning and end of day summary

6:00 pm: End


Feb. 12

9:00 am: Review

9:30 am: Assessments and measures

10:30 am: Break

10:45 am: Values

11:45 am: Mindfulness

12:15 pm: Lunch

1:30 pm: Case conceptualisation

1:40 pm: Case study

4:30 pm: Break 

5:00 pm: reflective learning, Wrap-up, resources, actions

6:00 pm: End


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