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Copyright: 2012 Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors

Institute Inbrief - 15/08/2017


Welcome to Edition 276 of Institute Inbrief! Acceptance and commitment therapy is a form of clinical behavioural analysis developed in 1986 by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl. In this edition’s featured article we’ll explore the definitions, goals and underlying philosophy of this relatively recent approach to counselling.


Also in this edition:

  • 2017 Mental Health Super Summit
  • The Making of a Flourishing Family
  • Social Support Development Skills
  • Post-disaster Resilience: Who Survives Better?
  • Social Media Updates & Much More!

Enjoy your reading!





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Diploma of Counselling


Imagine Being Passionate About Your Work

And Assisting People Every Day Lead Better Lives


It’s rare these days to hear people talk about their work with true passion. You hear so many stories of people working to pay the bills; putting up with imperfect situations; and compromising on their true desires. That’s why it’s always so refreshing to hear regular stories from graduates living their dream to be a Counsellor. They’re always so full of energy, enthusiasm and passion. There’s no doubt that counselling is one of the most personally rewarding and enriching professions.


Just imagine someone comes to you for assistance. They’re emotionally paralysed by events in their life. They can’t even see a future for themselves. They can only focus on their pain and grief. The despair is so acute it pervades their entire life. Their relationship is breaking down and heading towards a divorce. They can’t focus on work and are getting in trouble with their boss. They feel they should be able to handle their problems alone, but know they can’t. It makes them feel helpless, worthless. Their self-esteem has never been lower. They’re caught in a cycle of destruction and pain.


Now imagine you have the knowledge and skills to help this person overcome their challenges. You assist to relieve their intense emotional pain. You give them hope for the future. You assist to rebuild their self-esteem and lead a satisfying, empowered life. As a Counsellor you can experience these personal victories every day. And it’s truly enriching. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping another person overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.


You can learn more here:



AIPC’s Community Services Courses


Helping You Help Your Community!


We’ve helped people from all sorts of backgrounds become counsellors, and now we can assist you in fulfilling your goal of working within the Community Services sector! From 2017, AIPC is delivering the following two new courses:


Diploma of Community Services (Case Management) – learn more


Diploma of Youth Work – learn more


There has never been a better time for you to become involved and invested in the Community Services industries. It is predicted, between the years of 2015 to 2019, that employment within the Health Care and Social Assistance industries will increase by 18.7% (, 2015).


By gaining a qualification in Community Services (Case Management) or Youth Work, you will be contributing to an industry that serves a very important purpose: to assist those with personal or relationship challenges. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping others overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. And there’s no better time to do that than now!


To learn more about these programs, visit


AIPC courses:


Diploma of Counselling


Diploma of Community Services (Case Management)


Diploma of Youth Work


Bachelor of Counselling


Graduate Diploma of Counselling


Master of Counselling



2017 Mental Health Super Summit


The Mental Health Super Summit is back... and it’s bigger and better than ever. In the 2015 & 2016 editions, over 4,300 people attended the Summit, raising $223,944.00 for Act for Kids.


This year Mental Health Academy aims to raise a whopping $150,000.00.


Here’s a snapshot of the event:

  • You choose how much you want to pay to attend
  • All proceeds go to the Act for Kids charity, and are applied towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in Australia
  • 20 real-time webinar sessions (available to watch on-demand after)
  • An impressive line-up of internationally-renowned, award-winning practitioners, researchers, authors and educators
  • Presenters from the Beck Institute, Orygen, Boston University, Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, Macquarie University, University of Melbourne, La Trobe, UTS, and more
  • Interact with speakers through live Q&A sessions
  • Cutting-edge research in neuroscience, parenting, youth mental health issues, evidence-based counselling interventions, trauma, and much more!

If you’re a mental health practitioner or student, this is a not to be missed event.


Learn more and register here:



ACT: Definitions, Goals and Underlying Philosophy


Acceptance and commitment therapy (usually pronounced as the word “act” rather than the initials “A-C-T”) is a form of clinical behavioural analysis developed in 1986 by psychologists Steven Hayes, Kelly Wilson, and Kirk Strosahl. Originally called comprehensive distancing, it gets its current name from one of its core messages: the injunction to accept what is out of one’s personal control and commit to action that improves and enriches one’s life. Thus, ACT:

  • Is an empirically-based set of psychological interventions that
  • Uses mindfulness skills to develop psychological flexibility and
  • Helps clarify and direct values-guided behaviour (Carrasco, 2013; Wikipedia, 2013; Harris, 2013).

What are ACT’s goals?


ACT aims to maximise human potential in order to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it. It teaches those practicing it — let’s say that’s us — to accept things that are out of our control (this does not mean that we approve them) without evaluation or attempts to change them (unlike in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), while committing to taking action that enriches our life. ACT therapy achieves this by:


Helping us to clarify what is genuinely important and meaningful (that is, our values) and to use that knowledge to inspire and guide us to set life-enriching goals;

Teaching psychological skills, known as mindfulness skills, for handling painful thoughts, feelings, urges, images, and memories (called private experiences) in such a way that they have much less impact on us. Developing a new mindful relationship with such experiences frees us to take action consistent with our values (Harris, 2006; Carrasco, 2013; Harris, 2009).


What is the underlying philosophy of ACT?


ACT is based on the pragmatic philosophy of Relational Frame Theory (RFT), a comprehensive theory of language and cognition that is derived from behaviour analysis. While traditional models of language and cognition go for an information transmission system, RFT uses a functional, contextualistic approach to understand complex human behaviour such as language and thought (Wikipedia, 2013; Fox, 2013).


Translated into simpler language, the above paragraph means that RFT refers to the way that the stimulus functions of a thing or event tend to get transferred to the word used to describe it. For instance, let’s say that you are afraid of snakes. Every time you see one, you experience a knot of fear in your stomach, you break out into an anxious sweat, and you have an overwhelming desire to run away. RFT understands that if someone merely utters the word “snakes” in your presence (the stimulus), you are likely to experience the same fear, anxiety, and desire to run as if you were confronted by a live snake.


Because all of us as human beings contain a huge storehouse of anxiety hidden in our personal histories, we also have a wealth of potential anxiety that could be experienced in our personal futures. In the present, thoughts can occur that remind us of anxiety we experienced in the past, and we may anticipate anxiety that could occur in the future. Thus, according to the principles of RFT, words become causes of pain. We hear someone talking about their grief from losing their father, and we re-experience our own similar grief. All that we have been exposed to is the other person’s words; we haven’t just experienced another bereavement, but the words of grief we are hearing evoke automatic thoughts and feelings as though the death were occurring right here and now.


We tend to take these words, these thoughts, literally, rather than observing them as thoughts. Thus language and thought ends up being able to hurt us, because through it, pain can be brought to our minds at any time. It cannot be avoided. The more we try to avoid the painful experience (through distraction, repression, substance abuse, and many more short-term strategies), the more it lingers, causing us anxiety, fear, sadness, pain, shame, and other difficult emotions. If we didn’t have language, we could not call up a negative past, nor anticipate a negative future. But the way our minds tend to deal with this pain makes things worse. We tend, as human beings, to set up an unwritten rule that suffering is bad, that the absence of suffering is good, and that if something is bad, we should try to get rid of it by acting on it directly (NWLCB Training, n.d.).


Enter Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Working with the RFT model of language and cognition above, ACT helps people to relieve their suffering by dealing with painful experiences and thoughts — which RFT and ACT both acknowledge cannot be controlled long-term — by accepting them, and committing to actions which create a rich and purpose-filled life. Thus, the underlying philosophy of ACT (that is: RFT) is pragmatic, and precise, relying on just a few basic concepts to account for language and thought, with directly observable principles. It has direct applied and clinical applications, and is based on empirical research. Proponents say that it is taking behavioural science into exciting new directions with profound implications for almost every topic relating to complex human behavior (Wikipedia, 2013; Fox, 2013).


Where does ACT “sit” within schools of therapy?


Russ Harris, a general practitioner-turned-psychotherapist who has actively promoted the concepts of ACT through his writings, web presence, and training workshops, has commented that ACT is hard to describe, but can best be thought of as an “existential humanistic cognitive behaviour therapy” (Harris, 2009, p. 21). ACT is one of the “third wave” behavioural therapies, along with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (you can read a bit about these in the MHA Mindfulness course). All four focus on the development of mindfulness skills.


Waves of behaviour therapies


So if ACT is the third wave, what were the first and second waves, you ask? Good question. The “first wave” of behavioural therapies, while started in the 1920s, became well-known in the fifties and sixties. These therapies looked at observable behavioural change and were characterised by their techniques of operant and classical conditioning: what is traditionally known as behaviourism. The “second wave” began in the seventies when practitioners allowed cognitive interventions to be included, and therapies such as Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) grew in popularity, the latter eventually coming to dominate the “wave” (Harris, 2006).


Differences between ACT and other behaviour therapies


Clearly, there has been a growing trend to allow increasingly broader aspects of the client to come under study. Classical behaviourism, the first wave, looked only at behaviour. Therapies such as REBT and CBT in the second wave included both behaviour and cognition (thought and belief) as valid aspects to study in order to understand a human being. Third wave therapies, in their focus on mindfulness, additionally allow the aspect of awareness (that is, an aspect larger than the Western conception of “mind”) as a valid focus.


Within the current wave, ACT differs from the other therapies in several ways. First, MBSR and MBCT (the mindfulness approaches to stress reduction and cognitive therapy) are chiefly manualised protocols, designed to help groups of people in the treatment of stress or depression. DBT is often a combination of group skills training and individual therapy, created particularly to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder (Baer, 2003). Conversely, ACT can be used with a variety of clinical populations — as individuals, couples, or groups — in therapy sessions which can be brief, medium-term, or long-term.


ACT encourages therapists to create or individualise their own mindfulness techniques (even co-creating them with clients) rather than relying on manualised procedures. And ACT views formal mindfulness meditation as only one way within a wide range of methods to teach mindfulness skills (Harris, 2006).


This article was adapted from the Mental Health Academy course “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy”. This course covers the basic concepts and techniques of ACT, and examines how and why it may be effective with clients.




Baer, R. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10 (2), 125 — 143).


Carrasco, J. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy. Retrieved on 15 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.


Fox, E. (2013). Advantages of RFT. Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. Retrieved on 16 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.


Harris, R. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy. ACT Mindfully. Retrieved on 15 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.


Harris, R. (2009). Mindfulness without meditation. HCPJ (Healthcare Counselling and Psychology Journal). October, 2009, pp 21-24. Retrieved on 15 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.


Wikipedia. (2013). Acceptance and commitment therapy. Wikipedia: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved on 15 July, 2013, from: hyperlink.


Course information:


Diploma of Counselling


Diploma of Community Services (Case Management)


Diploma of Youth Work


Bachelor of Counselling


Graduate Diploma of Counselling


Master of Counselling


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The Making of a Flourishing Family


Have you ever wondered what makes some families capable of moving through very tough times without cracking under the strain? Are they just lucky somehow, or are they doing some things to get through in a happier, healthier way than typical families? What do you make of the family members’ responses to adversity in the following example?


Click here to continue reading this article.



Social Support Development Skills


The saying that “no man is an island” seems not truer anywhere than in the realm of resilience. So, we ask, what are the skills a person needs to develop good social support networks? We look at developing relational capacity and balancing dependence and independence.


Click here to continue reading this article.


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Mental Health Academy – First to Knowledge in Mental Health


Get unrestricted access to over 300 hours of professional development education in mental health, including specialist courses and on-demand videos.


Mental Health Academy is Australia’s leading provider of professional development for mental health practitioners. MHA’s all-inclusive memberships give you instant access to over 300 hours of learning – including videos presented by internationally-renowned experts in counselling, psychology and mental health.


Topics explored include: Evidence-based therapies, mindfulness, CBT, focused psychological strategies, children & adolescents, relationship counselling, motivational interviewing, depression & anxiety, addictions, trauma, e-therapy, supervision, ethics, plus much more.


Benefits of becoming a premium member:

  • Over 110 specialist courses to choose from
  • Over 100 hours of video learning on-demand
  • CPD endorsed by leading industry associations
  • Videos presented by international experts
  • New programs released every month
  • Huge range of topics and modalities
  • Online, 24/7 access

Learn more and join today:



Have you visited Counselling Connection yet? There are hundreds of interesting posts including case studies, profiles, success stories, videos and much more. Make sure you too get connected (and thank you for those who have already submitted comments and suggestions).


Post-disaster Resilience: Who Survives Better?


In recent years, many disaster response experts and mental health researchers have switched their focus from looking exclusively at at-risk populations in the aftermath of an emergency to asking, “What are the protective factors?” “What situations, experiences, or personal traits help people to come through a traumatic incident with greater resilience?” First, let’s clear what we mean when we use the word “resilience” in this context.


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“All labour that uplifts humanity must be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”


~ Martin Luther King Jr.



Many students of the Diploma of Counselling attend seminars to complete the practical requirements of their course. Seminars provide an ideal opportunity to network with other students and liaise with qualified counselling professionals in conjunction with completing compulsory coursework.


Seminar topics include:

  • The Counselling Process
  • Communication Skills I
  • Communication Skills II
  • Counselling Therapies I
  • Counselling Therapies II
  • Legal & Ethical Frameworks
  • Brief Interventions and Loss & Grief Support
  • Individualised Support and Working with Mental Health
  • Advanced Counselling Techniques

Click here to access all seminar timetables online.


To register for a seminar, please contact your Student Support Centre.


Course information:


Diploma of Counselling


Diploma of Community Services (Case Management)


Diploma of Youth Work


Bachelor of Counselling


Graduate Diploma of Counselling


Master of Counselling


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