Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in the Workplace — Interview with Ian Disley

May 19, 2017
7 min read

Acceptance Behavioural Therapy leverages mindfulness and other techniques to help people deal with depression, anxiety, and communication difficulties — inside and outside of the workplace.

UK-based Ian Disley MAC is a Cognitive Behavioural Coach and ACT Trainer (Acceptance Commitment Therapy), who has used his experience and background of working within a Community Mental Health Team to form his own private practice. This is an excerpt from a recent conversation we had with him, discussing counselling, life coaching, and the successes of ACT in the corporate setting, and for helping people deal with stress and anxiety in the workplace.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) therapist, Ian Disley.png

Katya: It seems that corporate wellness is becoming a standard offering at many companies. What sort of workplace therapy do you provide for your corporate clients?

Ian: I use my background in working within community mental health to relate common emotional and personal issues that can interfere with workplace performance and in the stresses of everyday life, such as anger issues, depression, anxiety, and communication difficulties.  

As a qualified Life Coach specialising with a Cognitive Behavioural approach, at the core of all my work is Acceptance Behavioural Therapy, having gained over 20 years of experience of working with vulnerable clients.  I have spoken nationally on a variety of Mental Health & Wellbeing topics, and work within a strict ethical framework as a long-standing member of the The Association for Coaching.

Q: What topics do you present on and what sorts of businesses have benefited from your counselling and coaching expertise?

Ian: My primary focus has been to offer practical, “hands on” strategies to boost emotional resilience, self-empowerment, enhancing personal and workplace wellness.

With my insights about the common issues and challenges that people face as a foundation, I have spoken extensively on topics including assertiveness, positive thinking, communication and managing stress effectively.  I have also provided interactive presentations to all types of workplaces, from small businesses, government agencies to charities and community groups.

Katya: You have run your own practice for some time. What does your group focus on?

Ian: My interest in the importance of Workplace Wellness led me to form MindWorks Coaching (Private Health & Wellbeing Practice) where I apply my insights about people and personal issues to the world of work by offering seminars, consultation, Career Coaching and troubleshooting to the workplace.

I am passionate about empowering others to help themselves, living by the motto of “Helping You to Help yourself, to Help Others”.

I have also taught and delivered Personal & Social Development programmes around the country. Including Wellbeing Skills group, Life Skills workshops and courses teaching DBT Skills training (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy), CBT Skills training (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT Training (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) providing a Wellbeing Support Group in the community for the last 6 years.

Katya: What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy?

Ian: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your control, and commit to valued based action that improves and enriches your life.  

Katya: What concepts or affirmations are at the core of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Ian: The four key pillars we work through in this type of therapy are: acceptance, choice, commitment, and taking action. Here’s what some of the meditations I take clients through would follow: Mindfulness & Acceptance and Commitment Therapy .png

Accept**your reactions**

  • Breathe, take slow deep breaths focusing on your breathing

  • Observe what is going on around you: be mindful and present - right now

  • Let the Thoughts come and go.  They are just words, pictures, images, it's what the mind does it is a thought machine.

  • Connect to your Feelings and Emotions are a normal response, we are only Human. They will pass, like clouds in the sky and the weather changing, just be the sky and watch them float on by.

  • Control what you can and except what you can’t, remember the ‘Serenity Prayer’ be wise to know the difference.

     >> Choose** and Commit to your valued life direction**

  • Consider your values, what is important to you, what are your hearts desires, what do you want to be remember for?

  • When taking any course of action or decision ask, is it workable and what is helpful, its not whether its true or false, right or wrong, but is the action taken ‘Helpful’ and true to your values.

    Take Action

  • What's the best thing to do, right now, in line with my chosen Values?

  • What will I be leaving behind as a legacy, what will people say about me on my 80th Birthday or at my funeral.

Katya: Is ACT a new type of therapy? What is the history of this method?

Ian: Derived from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Act is known as one of the “third generation” models in Psychology used as a talking therapy and in group work. ACT uses a contextual approach to challenging people to accept their thoughts and feelings and still commit to change by sticking to their values with committed action steps towards their lifelong goals and purpose.

With many years of evidence based research and Random Controlled Trails it has a 30 year history of helping people from all walks of life, ages and ethnic groups. For those suffering from Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Addiction, Trauma, Chronic illness and in even resolving relationship difficulties.

Katya: What is the difference between CBT and ACT? And why is ACT more effective?

Ian: Although originally derived from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) the major difference is rather than trying to change unhelpful and intrusive thoughts and feelings as we do with in CBT, Acceptance Commitment Therapy or Training is about accepting them just as pushing a beach ball in the water it just pops up again, likewise pushing thoughts and feelings, running away from them, hiding from these normal feelings and distracting yourself with addictive habits, these negative thoughts and feelings  will just come back with a vengeance.

Katya: Is Acceptance Commitment Therapy the same inside and outside of the workplace?****

Ian: ACT in the corporate world  is known as Acceptance and Commitment Training used in the workplace for continuing Professional Development, Staff Training and within Executive Coaching.

The six core process of ACT are the same, however due to possible stigma of therapy, the terms ‘Training and Coaching’ is more acceptable to the corporate world, the result being the same, individuals and teams living and working with life and work in balance, a more fulfilling and meaningful personal life and career, rich and rewarding as you take action in line with what is important to you in rising aspirations.

Katya: Can you talk about a use case/use cases where ACT is proving to be beneficial?

Ian: We facilitate Health & Wellbeing groups for a wide range of individuals suffering from social anxiety, loneliness, panic attaches and low moods and this has resulted in them forming and maintain new friendships with one another, gaining more confidence, higher self-esteem and learning life skills to manage their mental health condition sometime without the need for medication, resulting in less hospital admissions and GP appointments.

We have had referrals from Medical Centres, Community Mental Health teams, Doctors, Addiction centres and other therapists. We have successfully secured funding from NHS (National Health Service) through the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and funded for 3 years by the Big Lottery.

ACT is increasingly getting more popular as an alternative to medication and several clients have been able to use their new found skills, strategies and techniques to be able to reduce and be weaned off their medication under the supervision of their GP (General Practitioner, Doctor).

Ian Disley Mac.png If you would like to learn more about ACT or consult with Ian, you may message him directly through his profile (here).

If you're thinking "I need a therapist near me" but Ian doesn't specialize in what you need, try the RingMD therapist directory. We will help you find the right therapist for YOU!