Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Attending the ACT Boot Camp in the USA

I've just been to the USA - well to be honest, just a tiny portion of it, around Reno, Nevada and just a few small areas of California.

Like many professionals, to remain registered with our associations we have to accrue a certain amount of PD (Professional Development) points per annum. This is to show that we're up to date, moving with the times and not allowing dust to gather under our feet. For my association, (the CDAA - Career Development Association of Australia) we can include attending relevant training or conferences, writing articles which are published, reading and mentoring among other things.

I enjoy conferences, it's a great way to meet with colleagues from around the country and share experiences - both the joys and frustrations of our work and learn new things in a concentrated environment.

This year, however,  I wanted to extend my skills in a specific area, so when information about an ACT Boot Camp in the US appeared in my in-box I was delighted ... except that ... well ... it was in the US, and that's not just down the road. A 15 hour direct flight isn't something to be tackled lightly when you're travelling economy, even when the fares are heavily discounted. That's fifteen, long, boring hours, with crying babies, coughing adults and smoking deprived addicts, cooped up, farting, twitching, and generally desperately wishing they were somewhere else, mostly safely on the ground at their destination. QANTAS is a good airline, but 15 hours is stretching the friendship quite a bit.

But four days of intense training in ACT was extremely attractive! My training so far has been with Dr Russ Harris, (there's more about him, his books and work here) and he's great. But this boot camp would give me the opportunity to meet Dr Steve Hayes and other influential people in the field, learn more, and would be relevant for both my clients and myself.

Core Values:
Encouraging clients to think about their core values is how I work. When you know what's important to you, it provides a solid basis on which to make career and life choices, and ACT is both mindfully and values based. It complements career development for those wanting to make decisions which will support their life goals and values. Perfect!

Four solid days of training were offered, 8:30 am till 9:30 pm, an hour for lunch, and a dinner break of 1 1/2 hours - a couple of meagre tea breaks were included. That's full on! Would I have the stamina to last the distance? I could see why Dr Steve Hayes called it a Boot Camp, even though that's not an expression we use frequently for anything other than extremely demanding exercise classes.

Reno has never been on the short list of places I wanted to visit, but with the Yosemite, Sequoia and Death Valley National Parks not far off, I decided to extend the trip and have a bit of a holiday as well (after all it is such a very long way to travel if you only stay a few days!). This is the land of the TV shows I watched as a child, the wild west, rugged landscapes and familiar place names. (More about this over at jumping aground soon.)

And it was fantastic! More than 360 people attended, mostly from the US, but also from Belgium, France, Israel, South America, Ireland, London and of course Australia!

A casino seemed to be an unusual place to hold the training, but the facilities were excellent and we fitted comfortably into the conference room.  I'd rarely go into a casino as they remind me of a large parasite, sucking the lifeblood out of their victims who have been enticed into the lair. The machines seem like voracious pulsating stomach and intestines. This casino was huge; multi levelled, glittery, maze-like, airconditioned and soulless. Few gamblers appeared happy and seemed to be in a zombie like state. I wonder if they go home after a weekend of gambling and eating and say they've had a fantastic time? There must be some attraction I'm missing or the places would go broke and that never seems to happen!

I'm told the Boot Camp attendees stood out like the proverbial sore thumb as appearing very different to the gambling patrons, perhaps it's because many of us not only dressed for comfort and had note books and name badges, but showed complete disinterest in the "attractions" on offer.

But I digress; back to the ACT Boot Camp! There were so many benefits to attending training out of my own country. I didn't know anyone so couldn't take the easy option of sitting with people I already knew. Every person I met was interesting and generously shared information about their work life and the challenges which are so different to what I experience in Australia. The training was structured so that we quickly dropped the facade of "all is well" and shared information about fears, insecurities, and the personal challenges and hurts which affect us all ... we all have some sort of demons to contend with.

Whilst Australia and the US share a common language (more or less), we don't appear to share similar work experiences or opportunities. The bulk of the attendees seemed to be social workers and psychologists working in government departments or institutions of some sort, and I was certainly in the minority being a career counsellor working privately - yet in Australia, this isn't uncommon. It seems that the closest work title to being a career counsellor for adults would be a life coach. Specific career development discussions seem to be provided mostly for students or through companies providing outplacement services for redundant workers (a term that was considered quite harsh by the Americans) or for veterans (who we refer to as returned service personnel).

I talked with those at my shared table about how I already use ACT in career development work with my clients. Much of what I learnt at the Boot Camp is applicable to people who are unhappy in their careers, who are the targets of bullying, seeking a new direction or who are uncertain about course choices - it's definitely not only for people struggling with PTSD, addictions or abuse, although it's been consistently shown to be of benefit to those groups.

I'm glad I went. ACT complements career development beautifully. I've extended my skills, met some wonderful welcoming people, shared information, hopes and dreams as well as personal challenges and learnt more than I dreamed was likely or possible. I've been enriched by the training as well as the travel experience - for all my initial questions about the value of attending overseas training, it was a worthwhile investment!

wikipedia information on ACT
A non-academic article about ACT by Dr Russ Harris here



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. this is a great round-up and I'm glad you went ... and the subject matter seemed to be appropriate.

It's interesting the different descriptions or labels we give things ...

So pleased you had a happy and a productive time .. cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

Hilary, I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to do some training overseas. America is like a mirror world - similar but so very different!
I hope the weather is warming up for you