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.
- 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.