Steven C. Hayes – A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters


This week on MIA Radio, we interview Professor of Psychology Dr. Steven C. Hayes.

Dr. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor in the Behavior Analysis program at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of 45 books and over 625 scientific articles, his career has focused on an analysis of the nature of human language and cognition and the application of this to the understanding and alleviation of human suffering. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, an account of human higher cognition, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods.

Dr. Hayes has been President of several scientific and professional societies including the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, and the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. He was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Association for Psychological Science, which he helped form and has served a 5-year term on the National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse in the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Hayes received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy and was recently named as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In this interview, we talk about his recently released book, A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters, which uses the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy to help readers overcome negative thoughts and feelings, turn pain into purpose, and build a meaningful life.

We discuss:

  • What led Steven to his interest in psychology and, in particular, behavioral science.
  • That his keen interest was to mix an understanding of human experience with analytical science.
  • How he came to be standing on stage in Nevada at a 2016 TEDx talk, relating his experiences of panic disorder and ‘hitting bottom’.
  • How Steven has dedicated his life to helping people understand how they can be their whole selves while dealing with their problems and distress.
  • How his book ‘A Liberated Mind’ was in part based on his own experiences but also presents the voluminous research that underlies Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
  • That ACT is based on the psychological flexibility model and involved pulling at the threads of cognition and language to understand the fundamentals.
  • How ACT is a combination of acceptance and mindfulness processes and commitment/behaviour changes, referred to in the book as ‘pivots’ and ‘turning towards’.
  • That ACT allows us to be present with our difficulties in a way that we can learn from distress without becoming entangled.
  • That the book defines six basic processes: defusion, self, acceptance, presence, values and action.
  • How it is important not to believe that we need ‘fixing’ before we can move on with our lives.
  • That acceptance is often seen as giving up or tolerance but is better viewed as the response to receiving a gift.
  • How acceptance opens us up to the validity of our experiences and can help to achieve a healthy distance from distressing experiences.
  • How pain, judgement and comparison impact our lives.
  • That reliance on medications can mean that we become numb to experiences that we could learn from if we turned or pivoted towards them.
  • That the guide to happiness is hidden within our misery.

Relevant links:

Steven C Hayes

A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters

TEDx Nevada – Psychological flexibility: How love turns pain into purpose

Acceptance and commitment therapy and contextual behavioral science: examining the progress of a distinctive model of behavioral and cognitive therapy


  1. “Numb is not happy,” so true. “What the hell are we doing?” Trying to brainwash healthy people into thinking they have “life long, incurable, genetic” make believe diseases, attempting to take all hope away from innocent people. Killing innocent people slowly for profit, after promising to “first and foremost do no harm.” Our doctors have turned themselves into hypocrites, who have forgotten the Hippocratic oath.

    I do agree, a “Pivot Toward What Matters” to one’s client, as opposed to merely oneself, is definitely something most of our “mental health” workers need to do. But this won’t happen until the DSM is flushed, because the scientific fraud based DSM “system” is a distract and neurotoxin poison “system.” And it’s primarily a distract and neurotoxic poison child abuse survivors system.

    Perhaps, since most of the psychiatrists’ clients are child abuse survivors, the “mental health” workers should be able to bill insurance companies for helping child abuse survivors, which they cannot do today. Unless they misdiagnose them, so that’s what our “mental health” workers have done on a massive societal scale.

    I did go listen to some people who do deliverance ministry today, and they do help victims of SRA (satanic ritual abuse). This guy interviewed one of the people who ran the conference.

    I do agree, love is the answer. But defaming/stigmatizing and poisoning millions of innocent child abuse survivors, gas lighting them, denying the abuse, is about hate, not love. If our “mental health” workers must hate, their hate should be directed at the child abusers, instead of the innocent victims.

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  2. “how it is important that we don’t think we need fixing before we can move on with our lives”. I like and agree with this statement, yet part of me has a difficult time incorporating that within therapy. I have gone to quite a few counselors over my lifetime, and each time I walk in and walk out as if I need ‘fixing’, yet knowing that the thought is part of the problem. Each time I longed to be told I was okay, yet all it ended up being was me talking. It felt like a boring and yet upsetting hour. No one ever asked me about my marriage, my role in it. I would go to a counselor not knowing what was ‘wrong’, and here I am, still not knowing. It is futile for counselors to paint their own narrative over a client’s. The counselor often has no skills to find out what the problems might be. For me I found therapy was in and of itself depressing, because it seemed to stay stagnant.,

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