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Using Validation to Promote Acceptance

We can use acceptance to validate and normalise the human experience. When we do this we deconstruct the language that we use to describe an entire experience such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We don’t want to get caught up in the language but we want to pull apart and accept some of the units or components within that experience. 

We want to deconstruct the labels we place on our experience. A client may present with a particular concern and have a label for this concern. For example, a client may come in with anxiety. They may have fused with this word. Our clients probably don’t understand this label completely. At the same time, we as therapists initially don’t understand what the label represents for this client and their individual experience. We can try and understand our client’s experience in greater depth, rather than through a label, by looking at and having them describe the units that make up their unique experience. 

In looking at the components/symptoms our client’s experience we want to move from fusion (towards labels) to defusion (describing sensations without loaded meaning) and in doing so reach a level of acceptance. We want to look at individual components without the category or terminology labels. In the example of a client who is afraid of flying we could talk about the individual components such as the reaction of the sympathetic nervous system. We want to help our clients move away from fusion and toward validation of the specific symptoms and normalising them – leading to the recognition that having these symptoms is okay. 

The aim is to move away from the label (the whole) to looking at individual experiences. We want to do this because the meaning of the label is often more distressing than the individual parts. Once we have moved to acceptance of the individual parts, we need to continue using this language in session and not revert to using the label or category. 

Deconstructing labels breaks the entire experience into smaller components we can discuss, one component at time. We can apply this approach to any experience that our clients or we face.


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