I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the ACBS World Conference in Nicosia, Cyprus this year. ACBS stands for the Association of Contextual Behavioural Science and it is a community of researchers and practitioners who, according to the ACBS vision statement, are ‘dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering and the advancement of human well-being through research and practice grounded in contextual behavioural science’. This is the association and the conference that covers the most up to date science and research in the world of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and RFT (Relational Frame Theory) – both of which we at Skybound are passionate about applying, in both our personal and professional lives.
Researchers and practitioners from all over the world attend the ACBS Conference and create a wonderful, diverse and dynamic community. Over the course of the 3 day conference, I was fortunate enough to connect with delegates from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, as well as Ireland, Scotland, England and other behaviour analysts from Wales!
I have some experience with attending other training and conferences, but I believe there is nowhere else like ACBS. It is a place where you learn about cutting edge research on the use of Artificial Intelligence in therapy; and learn about new resources; where experiential exercises during workshops move you to tears, and where post-doctorate research students present mind-boggling statistical analyses on the effectiveness of interventions!
Over the course of the 3 days I learnt more about the application of ACT with children, including different resources and exercises that could be extremely useful; how to apply ACT within supervision and in the workplace; how to combine the science of RFT and Precision Teaching to teach skills to fluency and the powerful impact this had on the language acquisition for students with ASD; increasing school engagement in adolescents through use of ACT apps; and increasing self-esteem from an RFT perspective! It was a lot to process, and so valuable for the clients that we support.
One of the main reasons for me attending the conference was to share my own research from my Masters Dissertation Project titled ‘Using ACT via Telehealth to Increase the Overt, Values Directed Behaviours of Parents of Children with ASD’, which was based on the work by Evelyn Gould, Lisa Coyne and Jonathan Tarbox (link). I created a poster for the Wednesday evening poster session, where many posters on a wide range of topics are on display in a hall and the conference delegates can walk around with their free glass of wine and nibbles to browse and ask questions if they want more information.
There was a lot of interest in the information that I was providing, and I was chatting for an hour and a half about the project. Practitioners are aware of the immense strain and stress that parents feel, and the application of ACT as a way to support and manage this is incredibly important. The focus on increasing behaviours that the parents themselves wanted to change indicates that implementing ACT strategies can support us all to live a values-driven, meaningful life.