Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for Family Breakdown and the Protection and Custody of Children

Divorce has become increasing common and many dispute resolution practitioners (such as lawyers, mediators, psychologists, counsellors, family therapists, child and relationship specialists, communication specialists and coaches) become involved with couples who are, or are considering, separation or divorce.

As many of these human disputes deal with emotive issues surrounding family breakdown and the protection and custody of children and a shift from the traditional positional bargaining approach towards interest-based negotiation, with the goal of achieving real and sustainable solutions and perhaps where behavioural transform or where an enduring settlement is required.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help the parties learn, change and develop and can transform individuals and relationships.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a third-wave behaviour therapy rooted in the philosophical tradition of functional contextualism – a modern philosophy of science rooted in philosophical pragmatism and context and fouses on predicting and influencing psychological events (including thoughts, feelings, and behaviors). ACT is one of a number of new acceptance and mindfulness-oriented cognitive and behavioural therapies.

ACT is about acceptance and change at the same time and is a transformative approach that can be incorporated into family counselling and Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) practice. ACT offers an action and insight orientated therapeutic approach to problem solving – a departure from the facilitative process – that uses acceptance and mindfulness processes as well as commitment and behaviour change processes to produce psychological flexibility (Hayes, S. C., et al, 2012, pp.985).

ACT is focused on a life we truly want to live. It is not about solving problems in the traditional way, it is about changing the direction of the dispute resolution, so that the focus is more about being present and focusing on what clients value.

More on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) next week.


  • Hayes, S. C., Pistorello, J. & Levin, M. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as a unified model of behavior change. The Counseling Psychologist, The Counseling Psychologist, 40,;”>976-1002.
  • Hayes, S. C. & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life.

Do you need help with issue or problem? Our approach helps gain clarity about your goals, resources, options or preferences and then assistance to make ‘clear and deliberate decisions.’

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


One Comment Add yours

  1. iancooper74 says:

    I am learning a lot about ACT at the moment. This is the first time I’ve heard it discussed is a context out of therapy. I guess when two people are heated up about child custody getting them to step back and contact the present moment is a beneficial tool. Also asking them as you say what it is they value and is the anger they feel towards the other person taking them towards that value or away from it…


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