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Relational Frame Theory (RFT) 


One of our human superpowers is our ability to create associations/connections between arbitrary combinations of sounds (words) and objects, events, and ideas. Furthermore, we can generalize and expand our understanding from specific situations to a broader range of complicated concepts and ideas. 


For example: If a child sees a chickadee, a yellow finch, a woodpecker, and an owl in the garden, they will be able to identify other species of birds as a bird because they have developed a ‘relational frame’ that things with beaks, feathers, and wings are birds. 


Dr. Steven Hayes, a Professor at the University of Nevada’s Behavior Analysis program, developed RFT to help explain how our ability to relate one concept to another is the foundation of all human language. An essential building block of our human ability to communicate, think, and connect with one another. 


How does RFT relate to ACT? 


ACT is based on the idea that pain and suffering are a natural and unavoidable part of being alive. However, it is not necessary for us to simply endure it. ACT applies RFT to teach psychological flexibility by changing and eliminating our thinking and language patterns that contribute to suffering. It provides techniques that help us stop trying to avoid or manipulate our own feelings. Instead, learn how to accept our inner experiences, apply their energy toward solutions, and move closer to the things that matter (our values).  


ACT uses six core processes that apply the theories and findings of RFT to changing clients’ thoughts and language patterns.

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