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Five Questions to Help Clients Move Toward What Matters

  1. Who is at the center of the point of view?

With this question, you’ll remind clients that they alone are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making choices about who or what matters. You’ll also remind them of the fundamental fact that they are not their experiences, internal or external. They are simply the one noticing such things.

Have them write “Me noticing” at the center of the matrix, and circle it. Remind them that throughout their life, they’ll want to do their best to stay—or bring themselves gently back to—that position of noticer as often as possible.

  1. What can you typically be seen doing to move away from the unwanted stuff that shows up inside of you?

You’re now moving into the upper half of the matrix.

“In the lower part, you’re talking about stuff no one else can see, like thinking and feeling. It’s helpful to let clients know that the upper part is about what everyone can see us do,” write Schoendorff and Polk.

It may help to give an example here. Such as, you’re scared of dogs so you move to walk on the other side of the street when you pass by a house that you know has one. Clients “away moves” may include things like drinking, smoking marijuana, having casual sex, avoiding interactions with certain people, sleeping or fighting. Have them record their answers in the upper left quadrant of the matrix.

  1. What can you do to move toward who or what is important?

Finally, you’ll ask clients what they can be seen doing to move toward who or what matters to them. Examples might include visiting, calling, attending an event and so forth. Again, have the client record their answers, in the upper right quadrant.

Building Psychological Flexibility

Often times the same behaviors will show up on both sides of the upper half of the matrix, as both “away moves” and “toward moves.” This is an opportunity to remind clients that they are the only ones who can choose or notice who and what is important to them, and the only ones who can identify whether or not their behavior is truly moving away or toward those things.

Once clients have done this exercise, you’ve opened the door to building psychological flexibility through this perspective. Then, you can ask clients if they’d prefer a life on the left side of the matrix—in which what they do is mostly about moving away from obstacles—or the right side of the matrix—in which their actions are aimed toward moving closer to who and what are important to them.

If you’d like more information about using the ACT matrix in sessions, check out The Essential Guide to the ACT Matrix: A Step-byb-Step Approach to Using the ACT Matrix Model in Clinical Practice.

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Five Questions to Help Clients Move Toward What Matters