Mindfulness Training Blog

ACT or MBCT

March 24th, 2010

Many of our prospective students contact us wondering whether they should go for ACT training, MBCT training or both. These two approaches are evidence-based cognitive-behavioural applications of mindfulness. However, what are the differences?

Here is a brief comparison to clarify the differences and similarities between the two.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT can be used for group or individual treatment for wide range of problems. It could be summed up as a form of Mindfulness coaching with a cognitive behavioural feel and which can be practiced in a range of ways. Students are encouraged to develop their own styles. Our ACT training programme focuses on empowering you to practice ACT in your one to one therapy practice.

Mindfulness and Mindfulness coaching practices in ACT:

  • 1. Psychological flexibility is main the focus in ACT.
  • 2. mindfulness & acceptance processes employed:
    • # contact with present moment e.g. “Slow down and lean in. What do you notice right now as you say that?”
    • # acceptance e.g. “Would you be willing to feel the pain if it meant you were moving towards what is most important to you? Perhaps this anxiety is not your enemy after all.”
    • # cognitive defusion e.g “Look at a thought rather than looking from a though. Is that thought really what it says it is, or is it just a thought?”
    • # self-as-context e.g. “Notice the you that is noticing that perception of you. Are you the thing you are perceiving? Could you be the chess board rather than the chess piece?”.
  • 3. Coaching and behavioural processes
    • # Committed action e.g “What could you do that would move you in the direction of that value.
    • # (in the service of) Chosen values e.g. a compass point not a location. A valued direction, not a destination such as ‘intimacy’.

Recommendations: If you wish to be applying mindfulness to your one on one counselling/psychotherapy practice our initial four day ACT course should make that possible. The MBCT is a great adjunct to ACT. The MBCT meditations can be taught in conjunction with ACT.

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Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Based on Buddhist meditations and movement practices such as Yoga or Gi Gong this approach is mostly taught in a group. MBCT has a particular focus on preventing relapse in depression.  However recent research shows that the same programme is likely to help with many other conditions too (anxiety, stress, chronic fatigue, chronic pain etc.).

  • 1. Mindfulness practices in MBSR & the closely related MBCT:
    • # Raisin exercise (Mindfulness of eating)
    • # Body Scan (Often done lying down)
    • # Sitting meditation
    • # Mindfulness of breathing
    • # Mindfulness of sound
    • # Mindfulness of thoughts
    • # mountain and lake meditations (use of visual imagery)
    • # Hatha yoga (mindful movement)
    • # Walking meditation
    • # 3-minute Breathing Space (a mini meditation)
    • # Mindfulness in daily life
  • 2. General instructions for sitting meditation
    • # Sit quietly with eyes closed
    • # Observe breathing
    • # Notice that attention wanders
    • # Note where your attention went (labeling)
    • # Return attention to breathing
    • # Observe sensations, emotions, thoughts
    • # Refrain from judgmental thoughts
    • # Accept/allow
  • 3. General instructions for any meditation
    • # Refrain from attempts to change observed phenomena
    • # don’t try to get rid of emotions or sensations
    • # don’t dispute thoughts
    • # Refrain from acting on urges (or do it mindfully)
    • # Notice transience of most phenomena
    • # importance of sustained observation
    • # cultivate open, accepting stance toward whatever comes up
    • # regardless of pleasantness, desirability
    • # metaphors
    • # like explorer investigating new territory, botanist discovering new plant
    • # don’t confuse with passivity, resignation

Recommendations: Our MBCT training programme is geared towards those who wish to become teachers of MBCT and teach meditation in groups in your chosen field. If you do not intend to teach MBCT to groups the experience of this training can also help inform your mindfulness therapy practice. You will be significantly more experienced at applying mindfulness to yourself and be better prepared to inform others about it. You could also still introduce the MBCT Mindfulness meditation CD’s to your one to one therapy clients. The initial four day course will give you an experience of the eight week programme (taught in two weekends) and more, thus giving you an experiential understanding of MBCT. We also specialise teaching MBCT in the context of counseling and psychotherapy (unlike many MBCT trainers Patrizia Collard is a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist). When you have a year’s experience of cultivating your own mindfulness meditation, you may be eligible for our MBCT teacher development programme (click here for full entry criteria).

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Does this make it clearer which training suits you best? If you have further questions feel free to post them.

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