Grief is a natural, expected reaction to all types of loss, not just death. However, for some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and do not improve over time. Readjusting to loss involves adopting healthy new ways of living that involve new behavioral routines, developing coping skills, and shifting and reinventing roles and responsibilities within the family, work, and community. Generally, complicated grief is identified when an individual becomes stuck in a prolonged dysfunctional reaction lasting 12 months or longer. Although grief is natural and expected, it can become debilitating when prolonged to the individual, family, and community. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has quickly established itself as a leading “third wave” approach in the behavioral therapy tradition used by licensed mental health professionals and ministry leaders. However, unlike CBT, which emphasizes helping a client modify irrational or unhelpful thoughts, the underlying philosophy of ACT is that trying to change or even fix oneself often exacerbates symptoms—and thus, acceptance is critical. ACT brings together the best of many worlds—it integrates, from a Christian perspective, watchfulness into a coherent system of therapy and, at the same time, is supported by extensive research with a variety of populations. After years of research analysis, ACT has achieved the status of an evidence-based approach, recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. government. ACT is a practical, evidence-based counseling model for those struggling with complex, prolonged, and inflexible grief reactions. In this workshop, attendees will analyze a comprehensive ACT model for individual and group counseling for complex grief reactions. Participants can also apply core Christian faith disciplines and biblically informed skills and techniques that align with ACT’s empirically validated therapeutic factors to use with their Christian clients. Attendees can use these skills frequently in clinical and church settings.
318 | Treatment of Complex Grief: Utilizing Christian-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Richard Hoffman, Ph.D.
Approved For CE
Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Pastors, Pastoral Counselors, Lay Counselors, Coaches
Approved For CME/CEU
1. Recognize relevant pathways to identify and engage individuals and families typically affected by complicated grief issues in clinical and church settings
2. Explain the core concepts of Psychological Flexibility versus Psychological Inflexibility and how this relates to complex grief reactions
3. Formulate core ACT intervention strategies that promote Psychological Flexibility in individuals struggling with complex grief reactions
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