Assisting Clients to Find Real and Sustainable Solutions: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Family Breakdown and the Protection and Custody of Children

If you were on a bus trying to go east in a maze of dirt roads in a large valley, you might not be able to tell your direction from moment to moment. If someone took a series of snapshots, sometimes the bus might be facing north, or south, or even west, even though all the while this is a journey to the east.

Paths are not straight because obstacles sometimes prevent movement in the desired direction. A person who values creating a loving family may nevertheless have to go through a divorce. In that situation, the intention to be loving may be revealed only in limited ways, such as not establishing oppositions between yourself and your spouse that will negatively affect your children, or treating a soon-to-be ex-spouse fairly in the division of assets. Only over time will the underlying value become evident, like tracks left in the snow that show, even though the path is not straight, it is headed east.

Paths are also not straight because we are human. We may intend to go east, but our attention may wander, and we may find ourselves heading north.

Is it true that you’ve tried to solve these problems, but so far have failed to find a real solution?

Apply this question to human disputes and emotive issues surrounding family breakdown and the protection and custody of children can be challenging and complex. The parties will need to continue to communicate for years in relation to such ongoing problems of mutual concern, such as the upbringing of their children and other matters of concern to the family.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a model of behavioural change that has been shown to have positive outcomes across a broad range of applied problems. Designed to help clients change their approach to problems, and the direction in which their life is going, ACT can assist divorcing clients to turn their eyes back to the east, towards finding real and sustainable solutions. ACT helps clients consistently choose to act effectively, accepting internal experience and being present, choosing a valued direction and taking action.

Adapted from: Hayes, S. C. & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith @ or @


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