Managing Attention

In Psychology, attention refers to one’s ability to select and focus on relevant stimuli. Attention can be an element of concern for parents, when it comes to their children’s school performances, or for grown-up individuals, when they realize that they tend to be more distracted and unfocused than other people. When a diagnosis of a specific Attention Disorder is provided, the individual may benefit from the prescription of ad-hoc medications and/or from applying specific strategies.

However, if we consider ourselves ‘neurotypical’, we tend to underestimate how important attention is and how we can make an effective use of our focus in our everyday life. We often forget that – like any complex brain activity – attention consumes a considerable amount of mental resources, is finite, is influenced by mood and needs to be restored with time.

Often, to maximize our productivity, we may resort to ‘time management’, a series of strategies that can help direct our attention to the tasks that need to be done. However, we may discover that it is not enough to allocate time to each task in order to have things done properly. Sometimes we actually do not have the necessary focus to go through the whole list of tasks we planned so accurately. Some authors suggest that we should also look into what can be called ‘Attention Management’ (Thomas, 2019). This means that we need to understand better what attention is and how we can make a better use of this essential resource.

There are different types of attention and each of them serve different purposes. Selective Attention happens when we focus on a specific stimulus, like, when at the restaurant, we listen to our guest and ignore the background noise. Sustained Attention implies concentrating on a certain task for prolonged time. We do this whenever we watch a movie till the end. Alternate Attention is the ability of switching focus from one task to another. It happens when we listen to a lecture and we take notes at the same time.

In addition, some experts suggest that we can be in different mind dispositions or ‘modes’ in relation to how we pay attention to our environment. For example, we can be intentionally distracted – when we open our office computer and see what pops up from the various windows and applications; or we can be vaguely unfocused but ready to react – like the nonchalant security officer at the gate. We can be immersed ‘in the flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998) – like a pianist rehearsing his concert part. Or we can reach an enhanced state of mindfulness where we are fully present and in control of our focus – a doctor examining a patient, for example.

There is not much applied research about how to effectively manage attention, however, some basic strategies can be extremely helpful. 

To free our work environment from distractions is a golden rule. There are external distractions (things happening around us) and internal  distractions (our inner dialogue, thoughts about things happening in our life) (Goleman, 2015). It is important to learn how to keep at bay our hi-tech devices when we need heighted focus. Similarly, we can learn strategies to keep under control intrusive thoughts, ruminating habits, self-judgmental internal dialogue.

Taking breaks and breaking down tasks into smaller chunks help us get the most from our attention span and give time to our brain to recharge.  Sleep restores the brain energy and maintains its functionality. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve attention performances. 

We should avoid falling in the trap of multitasking. Multitasking, as we often intend it, is a myth and it is just an overuse of alternating attention. It impedes flow and sustained focus, and burns-out mental energy (Comer, 2022). 

At a more advanced level, we can commit to developing our mindfulness skills. Regular mindful exercises can considerably boost our focus and our ability to be present here and now when we most need it.


Brown, K.W. & Ryan, R.M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-848. 

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1998). Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life. Basic Books.

Comer , J. (2022) The fallacy of multitasking, Psychology Today

Dzubak, C. (2008) Multitasking: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown. The Online Journal of the Association for the Tutoring Profession, 1.

Goleman, D. (2015) Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York: Harper.

Rassovsky, Y. and Alfassi, T. (2019) ‘Attention improves during physical exercise in individuals with ADHD’, Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02747.

Schumann, F. et al. (2022) ‘Restoration of attention by rest in a multitasking world: Theory, methodology, and empirical evidence’, Frontiers in Psychology, 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.867978.

Thomas, M.N. (2019) Attention management: How to create success and gain productivity–every day. Naperville, IL: Simple Truths, an imprint of Sourcebooks. 

Written By:
Claudio Moroni
SACAC Counselling

Hardwired for Connection

Attachment science has found that the longing for a felt sense of connection is a primary need, especially when threatened. Isolation is inherently traumatizing. Many people experienced this during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Just as losing connection with loved ones is traumatizing, disconnection with ourselves is so too. 

Our survival-oriented response may kick in and when it does our higher brain functioning is no longer “online”. When it does, we often start reacting in ways that are familiar to us and provide relief in the short run. However, in the long run we become more disconnected from ourselves and our ability to give direction to our lives. 

“A felt sense of safe haven connection calms the nervous system and primes emotional balance” (Johnson & Campbell, 2022). From this secure base, one can actively explore and learn. The more securely attached a person is, the more autonomous one can be. Securely attached people tend to be more emotionally healthy and resourceful.  

Separation distress is what comes up when connection is lost. As a result, there may be protesting (in the form of anger), or clinging behaviour. And if an attachment figure does not engage, depression, despair and detachment may come up.

Key questions in love relationships are “Are you there for me?, Can I count on you?, and Do you feel for and with me?” When these needs are not met, a person can develop an insecure attachment strategy, of which there are three: anxious, avoidant or dismissing and fearful-avoidant. 

Our past experiences tend to shape how we experience the world and ourselves in it. Insecure attachment leads to mental health issues. We can continue to react in an automated way based on emotional experiences of the past. And continue to reshape the future on our model of the past. Or we can decide to free ourselves from the bonds of the past.

Through corrective emotional experiences a person can become securely attached and have lasting change. One can become more open, responsive and engaging with self and others. This will enable a person to better deal with existential life issues and feel more alive. 

The process of becoming more psychologically flexible means that one becomes less reactive to uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This enables a person to focus on what is more important and build a more rich and meaningful life. It entails that we become present thoughts and feelings that are alienated, frightening and acceptable within us, find rationality and order in it, not pathologize it. This process creates connections within a person that dissolves blocks and lets organic growth happen.

From that more secure base a person will experience the world with a greater sense of ease as the fight/flight response is not triggered. There is more resilience and sense of agency to give direction to one’s life. 


Johnson, S. M., & Campbell, T. L. (2022). A primer for emotionally focused individual therapy (EFIT): Cultivating Fitness and growth in every client. Routledge.

Written By:
Allard Mueller
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Can you rebuild trust in your relationship after cheating?

There are two answers to this question, the short answer is ‘yes’ and the long one is ‘it depends’.
Infidelity can leave the betrayed partner feeling more than just hurt. It can create the kind of uncertainty and anger that makes them wonder if the relationship is even worth saving.

The good news for couples who want to rebuild their relationship is that it’s still possible. The work involved won’t look the same for both partners. As the one whose actions broke the trust, the unfaithful partners will have to take responsibility for their behavior now and in the future. The betrayed partner has a lot to consider. Ultimately, the decision to repair a relationship will be left to them, but the unfaithful partner needs to want it too, as only they know what they feel about being cheated on and if they think there is room to grow together and rebuild a very different relationship.

Rebuilding trust after cheating is a long and difficult process that requires work from both partners. Even if it’s tough work, there are healthy ways to do it. Couples counseling exists precisely for those who want to save their relationships. That includes recovering from an affair. It has to be spelled out loud that without ending the affair, there’s no way to regain trust. Unfaithful partners need to be proactive so that the affair doesn’t cloud the relationship they’re trying to save. Remember that the discomfort they feel is likely amplified for the person on the receiving end.

The journey to rebuilding trust starts in how conversations on infidelity are handled and the sincerity the unfaithful partner brings. There’s no way around it – accountability for the unfaithful partner’s actions has to be taken. When spouses cheat, there’s often a temptation to blame their behavior on issues in the marriage, real or otherwise. The problem here isn’t that one felt neglected, unappreciated, or unloved. Those can be real issues, but the actions one decides to take as a result are still their own only.

Without taking responsibility, there’s no room to grow, change, or do better. It can be one of the hardest steps, but it’s always the first one partners need to take. Apologize without invalidating your partner’s feelings and concerns and pair your words with actions. It creates the space needed to have the tough conversations in a safe, open, and healthy environment. The focus has to be on transparency, and the cheated on partner may ask a lot of difficult questions during these conversations. Infidelity happens in secret by nature. It’s only possible when the other partner is kept in the dark. Rebuilding trust means illuminating the shadows

Healing from an affair isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to consume your relationship. Part of rebuilding trust means doing the things that bring you closer together. Spending time with each other outside of heavy conversations is a good thing. It helps you focus on what you still love about each other, and the things that brought you together in the first place. Dr. John Gottman focuses on actions rather than words because trust is more than believing your partner. Trust has to be proven in ways that feel concrete.

Couple counseling can help as betrayal isn’t easy to process. Learning to trust is exactly that: learning. It’s a slow and challenging process, but it is possible. Professional help can guide you on the best ways to do it, and give you the tools to heal.

Written By:
Laura Spalvieri
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Caregiver Stress – What is it and what can you do to help?

Taking care of an ageing parent, spouse, a sick relative or child is a responsibility many of us face during life. It can be incredibly rewarding and help us bond with our loved ones as we support them through their challenges. But the stress of caregiving for a loved one is very real, whether that person lives with you, elsewhere in the same country or lives overseas. The physical, mental and emotional impact can be significant and have a huge impact on your life. 

Learning to recognize signs and symptoms of caregiver stress is important  as you can take action to prevent things from worsening and start improving the situation for you and your loved one. Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress are

  • Anxiety, depression and irritability
  • Feeling tired and run down
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • New or worsening health problems
  • Feeling resentful
  • Cutting back on your own leisure activities

If you live in a different country to the person you care for, the emotional burden can be very high, with worry and potentially guilt about the situation. Financial concerns about providing quality care and keeping your loved one safe may also be a consideration.

If you notice things are becoming more difficult for you it is important to seek help and support for yourself to not feel alone. Talking to a trusted friend or therapist can give you an outlet for your feelings and concerns. Connecting to other caregivers through support groups or charitable organizations specific to your loved ones condition can reduce feelings of isolation and provide practical support and resources. Self care can be hard to prioritize but is incredibly important, we need to keep ourselves strong to be able to offer support to others. Prioritizing regular time for activities you enjoy and time for small treats can keep you resilient to the challenges that inevitably come. Attending to your own physical health needs is important too, having your own health check ups, exercise and eating well help to keep your body strong so you can continue to care for your loved one.

The emotional impact of caregiving can be significant and can magnify any difficulties that may exist in the relationship we have with our loved one. We can experience grief over the loss of a loved one even whilst they are still alive, conditions like dementia can involve the loss of the person as we know them, with changes in personality, loss of memories, and changes in what they can do and how they communicate. We can mourn the loss of our previous relationship with them and mourn the loss of our life before the caregiving responsibilities. This grief can be more complex if we already have a complex relationship with our loved one. Seeking support is important to help work through and process these emotions and our responses to them. 

Written by:
Jennie Bhangu
Occupational Therapist
SACAC Counselling

Traumatic Stress

Traumatic stress can be triggered by a variety of events, such as traffic accidents, plane crashes, violent crimes, terrorist attacks, global pandemics, and natural disasters. You may be overwhelmed by conflicting emotions such as shock, confusion, or fear at the same time. These emotions are not unique to those who have experienced an event.

Traumatic stress can harm your mental and physical health if the trauma was manmade, such as a shooting or act of terrorism. Physically and emotionally drained, overcome with grief, unable to sleep, unable to concentrate, or unable to control your temper may be some of the symptoms you experience. These types of responses can result from having to deal with abnormal events.

Symptoms of trauma include headaches, nausea, and irritability, which gradually subside as life gradually returns to normal after a catastrophic event. However, you can do many things to support your recovery and cope effectively with your trauma. You can calm yourself and regain your emotional balance, regardless of whether you were the victim, a witness, or a first responder.

Traumatic stress is associated with the following emotional symptoms:

Overwhelming shock and disbelief. Feeling numb and disconnected from your feelings, or having trouble accepting the truth of what happened.

Fear. Worrying about the same thing happening again, or losing control, makes you feel like you’re going to break down.

A feeling of sadness or grief, especially if you know someone who has passed away or suffered a life-altering event.

Feeling of helplessness. 

When a violent crime, an accident, a pandemic, or a natural disaster strikes unexpectedly, you may feel vulnerable and helpless.

A sense of guilt for surviving when others have died, or the feeling of regret for not doing more.

Feelings of anger. Your anger may be directed at God, government officials, or others you believe to be responsible, or you may be susceptible to emotional outbursts.

Shame occurs when you are unable to control your feelings or fears.

Feeling relieved. You might be relieved that it’s over, hoping life will return to normal, or wondering if it is.

The process of dealing with painful emotions 

If you have suffered any losses, allow yourself to grieve and heal.     

Healing and recovery takes time, so don’t rush it. Don’t be surprised if your emotions are volatile and difficult. Embrace your feelings without judgement or guilt. Be able to connect with uncomfortable emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.

When you are traumatized, how do you feel grounded?

Try this simple exercise if you are feeling overwhelmed by traumatic stress:

Place your feet on the ground and your back is supported by a chair. Choose six objects around you that are red or blue. By doing this, you should be able to feel grounded, engaged and more in your body. Observe how your breath becomes deeper and calmer.

Another alternative is to go outside and sit on the grass and just let the ground support you.


Sansbury, Brittany S, Kelly Graves, and Wendy Scott. “Managing Traumatic Stress Responses among Clinicians: Individual and Organizational Tools for Self Care.” Trauma 17, no. 2 (April 1, 2015): 114–22.

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association.

1.Perkonigg, A., R. C. Kessler, S. Storz, and H-U. Wittchen. “Traumatic Events and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Community: Prevalence,Risk Factors and Comorbidity.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 101, no. 1 (2000): 46–59. 

2.Copeland, William E., Gordon Keeler, Adrian Angold, and E. Jane Costello. “Traumatic Events and Posttraumatic Stress in Childhood.” Archives of General Psychiatry 64, no. 5 (May 1, 2007): 577–84.

Written by:
Leah Selakovic
SACAC Counselling

How can I support my child with emotional regulation?

As a children’s therapist, I often work with parents to help them with understanding their child and supporting emotional regulation skills. Here are some tips regarding how you can assist them when they are feeling dysregulated.

  1. Validate their feelings- when a child is experiencing heightened emotions, acknowledge and validate their feelings. This is done by showing empathy and understanding, and letting them know that the emotions they are experience are typical and acceptable

  2. Directly teach coping mechanisms- you can help your child learn healthy coping mechanisms that work for them whilst they are experiencing these emotions. Examples of these are belly breathing, deep and slow breaths and breathing exercises, journaling, drawing or physical activities such as going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music, or squeezing a stress play or playdough

  3. Set clear boundaries- while it is important to validate a child’s feelings, it is also important to set boundaries around behaviour. You can assist your child with understanding that it is okay to feel angry and upset, it is not okay to demonstrate behaviours that may hurt themselves or others

  4. Encourage self-regulation- helping your child to develop self-awareness around their emotions is an important part of emotional regulation. You can encourage your child to reflect on their emotions and explore and label what triggers them, as well as which coping mechanisms work best for them to use

  5. Modelling- model healthy emotional regulation around your child. By modelling healthy and safe emotional regulation in front of your child, you can directly show and teach them through demonstration. This can be by showing your own coping mechanisms and managing your own emotions in an effective and constructive way. Children learn by example, so modeling these healthy and useful behaviours is a very powerful way to support your child’s development in this area

    Written by:
    Renee Butler
    SACAC Counselling

Working Through Grief And Suffering

Suffering is universal and comes in different forms. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or all together at one time. Grief is complex and unique in every case. It can alter one’s lifestyle, behavior, and personality as well as affect the people around him. One of my clients told me, “I was sixty-five years old when my husband died. What I am saying is that I had lived long enough to have suffered some awful pains, and done my share of grieving. But with my husband gone, I just could not seem to snap out of it.”

The prolonged grief in her resulted in depression. She became isolated and withdrew from all social functions. You might be one of those who have lost someone you loved or known someone who has lost somebody close to them, or you may be suffering because of a terminal sickness; or because of financial difficulties as a result of a job loss, a marital problem or a loved one suffering mental illness.

Grief and suffering are difficult to handle. How does one cope with them? How does one work through the difficult days, weeks, months, and possibly years? There is no right or wrong formula or a way to handle them. How one grieves depends on many factors. It depends on his or her personality and coping styles, his life experiences and faith, as well as the nature of the pain and suffering. The healing process is always gradual. It cannot be forced or hurried. Thus, there is no timetable for grieving. What one experiences is different but the process will take time. Therefore, it is important to be patient and to allow the process to unfold itself organically in its due time. It can be short for some, and lengthy for others.

The Five Stages Of Grief

Grief is not something one can just try to get over it needs to run its course. The loss of someone or the encounter with something tragic can be extremely hard and painful. A person can experience all kinds of unending and difficult feelings from pain and suffering. It is the normality of life. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross introduced in her book “On Death and Dying” what has become known as the “Five Stages of Grief.” They help us to understand what a person goes through during such times. The five stages of grief are based on her studies of the feelings of patients who were faced with a terminal illness. Many have generalized them to other types of negative effects from the changes and losses in life.

The first stage is denial where one rejects what has happened or is happening to him or her. The second stage is where anger creeps in to complicate the sadness or pain one is experiencing. The third stage is to bargain by making promises to God, to ourselves, or to others in the hope to be well again. If it does, one will fulfill their part of the bargain. The fourth stage is where depression sets in where a person experiences a sense of helplessness and even hopelessness. The fifth stage is where one begins to accept as he or she recognizes that this is it, and there is really nothing he or she can do to change the situation or circumstances.

Grieving or suffering is unique and personal to each individual person. The five stages do not necessarily take place chronologically, nor does everyone goes through the same stages. In fact, some people resolve it without going through any of these stages while others go through every single stage with its full implications. While it can be a roller coaster ride as it can become rough, bumpy, and lengthy for some. No matter how many or what stages one goes through, it usually becomes less intense and shorter as time passes. Thus, time is needed to iron out the pain of suffering.

  1. Acceptance – No matter what causes grief or suffering like the death of a loved one, physical illness, unemployment, fear, or uncertainty of the future, do not deny it but accept it.
  2. Acknowledgment – Do not try to suppress or bury any pain or grief. But acknowledge them as the more you try to avoid the feelings of sadness, the longer the grieving process will be prolonged. Any unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, anger, anxiety, and other health problems.
  3. Release and Rest – Any feelings of loss and helplessness that sweep over us, do not try to hold back the tears. Tears are therapeutic. They release the tension of sadness and grief from our hearts which can be hard to express with words. Tears also exhaust the body and force us to rest as the pain of suffering can prevent a hurting person from doing so.
  4. Express – Talk to a trusted friend or a relative who will listen to you. Share with them your pains and burdens. Do not harbor them in your hearts or try to carry the load yourself. You can also use art to express your feelings. You can also write a letter to the deceased to say the things you never got the chance to speak. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life. Have a picnic at the grave site with surviving family members.
  5. Journal – Write down your feelings and pains and the things that are affecting your life. Writing your thoughts and feelings on paper will help to clarify and sort through your feeling. Sometimes you can even find the answers or way out for yourself through writing.
  6. Stay Active – Find something to do especially when you are overwhelmed by sadness or negative thoughts and feelings. Go for a walk, clean the house, run errands, visit a friend, sing, or paint. Do something you enjoy and bring fulfillment to yourself or to others.
  7. Stay Healthy – The mind, soul, and spirit are connected. Therefore, when you are feeling depressed, you will neglect your physical, and emotional needs. Thus, you must take care of your physical needs. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating well, and doing exercises. Do not use substances to numb the pain or to try and change your moods.
  8. Watch for triggers” of grief – Birthdays, anniversaries, or special holidays can trigger memories and feelings of sadness. This is normal but be prepared for how it can affect you. Be kind and patient to yourself and to others at such times.
  9. Faith – If you have faith, put it in the divine being you believe in. Feelings of hopelessness can consume all your energy in a destructive way. Faith will enable you to embrace pain positively together with the right perspective, it will be easier to make any necessary changes in your life and manage the pain of suffering better.
  10. Support – Good friends or support groups can be helpful to us. Communicate and express clearly what and how you like others to help and support you during the darkest hours.

    If you have been impacted by any grief and loss, please do not hesitate to call SACAC as we have a group of professional therapists and psychologists who can help you.

    Written By:
    Joyce Ng
    Clinical Psychologist
    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    SACAC Counselling

Inner Child Hypnosis Work

Deep inside of us still lives the child we once were, our ‘inner child’.
Taking the decision to explore this part of ourselves and connect with the little one we once were, takes us on a journey to the core of our being. We can then embrace, bolster and heal that child. Many adults are oblivious that, deep within themselves, such a delicate and sensitive, often wounded part of who they were has deeply influenced their path forward.
Of paramount importance is to understand that this part of us not only holds our aptitude for innocence, wonder, joy, sensitivity and playfulness but often holds childhood hurts, traumas, fears and anger as well.
The view of several current psychological approaches holds that true adulthood integrates, acknowledges and takes responsibility for our own inner child. Instead of denying, neglecting, abandoning or rejecting this part of ourselves, we embrace it, listen to it, nurture it, treat it with love and ultimately heal it.
Our wounded child will respond to genuineness and integrity to our connection. Much beyond our inner child, we may also touch on the suffering of several generations. Our mother or our father may have suffered throughout their lives and had no awareness and possibility to look after the wounded child in themselves. It is liberating and incredibly powerful to be aware that when we embrace the little child within us, we are also healing wounded children of past generations, sometimes correcting ancestral patterns of suffering. If we can heal our wounded child, we will liberate ourselves but also help to liberate whoever has hurt us. Inner Child hypnotherapy can create positive changes in the adult who seeks greater self-respect, self-confidence, self-worth and self-acceptance. It can help overcome self-sabotaging behavior learnt to cope with the abuse and dysfunction in the family we grew up in. To achieve these goals requires the client’s full cooperation. One must really want to heal and make the changes; one must be open to believing that healing is possible and that positive changes can be made; and you must be willing to use the tools and techniques provided. Part of the therapeutic process involves conscious cognitive dialogue. Clients are asked questions to gain an understanding of their childhood and family of origin, and to identify the specific incidents that harmed them. It will be explored how they tried to cope and what self-sabotaging behavior developed which creates road blocks for them as adults. To develop a positive and trusting relationship with the client, the first one or two hypnotic sessions are spent creating a peaceful, calm state in which rapport is established and the client is helped to let go of fear, anxiety, and worry about the process. Techniques that deepen the hypnotic state and promote relaxation, develop self-esteem, and improve self-confidence are used. During the hypnotherapy sessions a variety of hypnotic suggestions are presented, as well as visualizations, and other techniques to access and relate to the client’s inner child, and change limiting beliefs and negative emotions with positive feelings, attitudes, and empowering beliefs. Positive coping strategies that target their goals are provided to the subconscious mind, promoting self-love in place of self-sabotage. Hypnotherapy and inner child work has a powerful impact on people’s lives and the inner child work reconnects us with this part of ourselves longing to be heard, held and healed. It is a profoundly rewarding work that enables us, in a nurturing and loving way, to come back home and to heal our fragmented self.


(588 w)

Written By:
Laura Spalvieri
Counsellor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Doing what matters in times of stress

In this blogpost I wanted to highlight an important programme that is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, for people who are affected by adversity and help deal better with stress. It is a real world application of how psychotherapy can improve the lives of people around the world and make it a better place.

In 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated Self Help Plus (SH+), an initiative to provide mental health support to people facing adversity in regions with less resources. The programme is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is  originated Dr. Stephen Hayes. 

The content was created by Dr Russ Harris et al. for the WHO. They came up with a Comic book that can be used around the world by people with various levels of education. The programme consists of 5 sessions and can give facilitated by person with little mental healthcare training, like a nurse. It is conducted over 5 weeks and uses recording to guide the sessions.It is considered a low intensity intervention. 

ACT is pronounced as a verb to emphasise the need for committed action in this model. ACT focusses on encreasing psychological flexibility. This is done by opening up to our present moment awareness and our internal experiences ( our thoughts and emotions), while acting in alignment with our values and moving towards our aspirations. Simply put, Opening up, Being Present and Committed Engagement. The programme has been implemented in regions affected by adversity. 

Recently, a study in Northern Uganda of female Sudanese refugees’ mental health, has been conducted to see if the programme improves psychological flexibility. The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology by Daniel P. Lakin and a team of researchers. As you can image, conflict-affected areas experience increased level of psychological distress and mental health disorders, which was confirmed among others by Steel et al., 2009. 

The researchers have concluded that psychological flexibility did improve among the Sudanese female refugees, despite it being a low-intensity intervention. The outcome the SH+ study underscores the effectiveness of the ACT based programme. And that psychological flexibility can be improved even for low-resourced regions around the world. 

The programme is flexible enough to be adapted to the various regions’ needs and still maintain the key components that make ACT such an effective therapy. It provides a roadmap to lessen the impact of adversity across the globe and make this world a more peaceful and harmonious place.

It also indicates that dealing more effectively with stress can be learned in brief therapy. This is a great message for anyone struggling with feelings of stress, low mood and feeling overwhelmed. So if anyone you know is struggling with any of those feelings, do let them know that simple and easy to learn skills can go a long in dealing with life’s challenges.


Lakin et al., 2023: blob:

Steel, 2009:

Written by:
Allard Mueller
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

Why Therapy?

Some people still believe that therapy is for “crazy ones”, for those that are weak or that is a luxury. Most of my clients believe that I have a magical pill that in a few sessions it will cure them or completely treat their issue. But what exactly is therapy for and what does a therapist do?

To answer that question, I will recall what a Brazilian professor of mine always emphasized: the importance of the culture in one’s mental health development. If you go to any library, you might find books about “how to be truly happy”, “learning how to leave your anxiety behind”, “the 3 steps to happiness” etc. Culture in general has this bias that conditions people to be believe that suffering is not good, so we try multiples ways of getting rid of these negative feelings. Some people, believing on that and trying to accomplish this impossible mission, enter my therapy room.

For those, I have to deliver the unfortunate bad news that therapy is not about magic powers and that it will never eliminate suffering, as it is an inherit condition to humans. What we therapists can do is to help our client to deal with their difficulties and challenges in a better way. Pain, sadness, anxiety, fear, and all other emotional negative aspects to life will always be there, but therapy will support the patient to deal with their daily challenges in a different and better way, helping their quality of life to improve even in the presence of all those negative feelings.

Written By:
Andrea Fernandes Thomaz
Counsellor & Psychotherapist

SACAC Counselling