Models for coaching

ACT Hexaflex Model

The ACT Hexaflex Model is a visual representation of the six core processes of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Useful in coaching for Healing, Making a Change, Self-Awareness, Understanding Behaviour 

ACT Hexaflex model - Psychological Flexibility Model

Background to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of psychological intervention that has evolved from traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Steven C. Hayes, ACT has since grown in popularity and is now widely recognised as an effective treatment for a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. The primary goal of ACT is to help individuals develop psychological flexibility, which in turn allows for greater psychological health and well-being.

What is Psychological Flexibility?

Psychological flexibility refers to the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, manage our thoughts and emotions, and pursue valued goals despite facing obstacles or setbacks. It encompasses a range of skills and abilities, such as being open to new experiences, tolerating discomfort, and staying focused on what is truly important to us. In essence, psychological flexibility is the capacity to cope effectively with the challenges that life inevitably presents.

The Psychological Flexibility Model

The Psychological Flexibility Model is the theoretical framework that underpins ACT. It is based on the idea that psychological inflexibility, or the inability to adapt and cope with life’s challenges, is the root cause of much human suffering. The model posits that by increasing our psychological flexibility, we can reduce the impact of negative thoughts and emotions, enhance our well-being, and improve our overall quality of life.

The Six Core Processes of ACT (Hexaflex model)

ACT Hexaflex model - Psychological Flexibility Model

ACT is comprised of six core processes, each of which contributes to the development of psychological flexibility. These processes are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, meaning that improvements in one area often lead to gains in others.

This model is also know at the ACT Hexaflex model. It’s a visual representation of the six areas.

The six core processes in the Hexaflex model are:

1. Acceptance

ACT Hexaflex model - 1. Acceptance

Acceptance, in the context of ACT, refers to the willingness to experience difficult thoughts and emotions without trying to avoid or control them. It is about embracing our internal experiences, both positive and negative, and allowing them to be present without judgment.

How It Helps Us

  1. Reduced emotional distress: By accepting our emotions rather than trying to suppress or avoid them, we can reduce their intensity and impact on our well-being.
  2. Increased resilience: Acceptance helps us to develop greater resilience in the face of adversity, as we learn to tolerate discomfort and better manage our internal experiences.
  3. Enhanced self-awareness: Embracing our thoughts and emotions without judgment promotes greater self-awareness and understanding of our internal experiences.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Increased emotional suffering: When we attempt to avoid or control our emotions, we often inadvertently intensify our suffering and prolong our distress.
  2. Reduced coping abilities: A lack of acceptance can lead to a reliance on maladaptive coping strategies, such as substance abuse or excessive rumination.
  3. Impaired relationships: Difficulty accepting and managing our emotions can contribute to strained relationships and reduced social support.

Ways to Start Developing It

  1. Mindfulness practice: Regular mindfulness practice can help us to cultivate acceptance by fostering non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and emotions.
  2. Exposure exercises: Gradually confronting situations or emotions that we typically avoid can help to build our tolerance for discomfort and promote acceptance.
  3. Self-compassion: Cultivating self-compassion can support acceptance by encouraging us to approach our internal experiences with kindness and understanding.

2. Cognitive Defusion

ACT Hexaflex model - 2. Cognitive Difusion

Cognitive defusion is the process of separating ourselves from our thoughts, recognising that they are merely mental events rather than objective truths. It involves stepping back from our thoughts and observing them as separate from ourselves, thereby reducing their influence over our emotions and behaviour.

How It Helps Us

  1. Reduced emotional reactivity: By detaching from our thoughts, we can reduce their impact on our emotions and prevent them from triggering maladaptive responses.
  2. Enhanced problem-solving: Cognitive defusion can help us to approach problems more objectively and flexibly, allowing for more effective problem-solving.
  3. Increased self-awareness: Observing our thoughts from a distance promotes greater self-awareness and understanding of our cognitive processes.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Increased emotional distress: When we are fused with our thoughts, we are more likely to be overwhelmed by negative emotions and experience increased distress.
  2. Impaired decision-making: Cognitive fusion can lead to rigid thinking patterns, impeding our ability to make informed decisions and adapt to new information.
  3. Reduced self-awareness: A lack of cognitive defusion can prevent us from gaining insight into our thought processes and limit our understanding of ourselves.

How to Develop It

  1. Mindfulness practice: Mindfulness meditation can help to cultivate cognitive defusion by encouraging non-judgmental observation of our thoughts.
  2. Cognitive distancing techniques: Techniques such as labelling thoughts or imagining them as passing clouds can help to create distance between ourselves and our thoughts.
  3. Metaphorical exercises: Using metaphors, such as viewing thoughts as leaves floating down a stream, can facilitate cognitive defusion and foster a sense of detachment.

3. Being Present

ACT Hexaflex model - 3. Being Present

Being present, or mindfulness, is the ability to fully engage with the present moment, without being distracted by thoughts of the past or future. It involves paying attention to our current experiences and sensations, as well as our thoughts and emotions, in a non-judgmental manner.

How It Helps Us

  1. Increased emotional well-being: By focusing on the present moment, we can reduce the impact of negative thoughts and emotions, leading to greater emotional well-being.
  2. Enhanced cognitive functioning: Mindfulness has been shown to improve cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and decision-making.
  3. Improved relationships: Being present allows us to be more attuned to the needs and emotions of others, fostering greater empathy and stronger interpersonal connections.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Increased stress: A lack of mindfulness can contribute to chronic stress, as we become consumed by worries about the past and future.
  2. Reduced cognitive functioning: Difficulty being present can impair our cognitive abilities, leading to problems with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
  3. Impaired relationships: When we are not fully present, we may struggle to connect with others and maintain healthy, fulfilling relationships.

How to Develop It

  1. Mindfulness meditation: Regular mindfulness meditation practice can help to cultivate the ability to be present by training our attention and awareness.
  2. Breathing exercises: Focusing on our breath can serve as a simple yet effective way to anchor ourselves in the present moment.
  3. Engaging in flow activities: Participating in activities that promote flow, or a state of full immersion in the task at hand, can help to foster mindfulness and presence.

4. Self as Context

ACT Hexaflex model - 4. Self as Context

Self as context, also known as the observing self, refers to the ability to view ourselves from a broader perspective, recognising that we are more than just our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This process involves cultivating an awareness of our ongoing sense of self that transcends our immediate thoughts and emotions.

How It Helps Us

  1. Reduced identification with thoughts and emotions: By viewing ourselves as separate from our thoughts and emotions, we can reduce their impact on our well-being and foster greater psychological flexibility.
  2. Increased self-compassion: Recognising that we are more than our thoughts and feelings allows us to extend greater compassion and understanding towards ourselves.
  3. Enhanced resilience: Cultivating a broader perspective on ourselves promotes resilience in the face of life’s challenges, as we learn to view our experiences as temporary and ever-changing.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Increased emotional suffering: When we identify too closely with our thoughts and emotions, we may experience greater emotional distress and decreased psychological well-being.
  2. Reduced self-compassion: A lack of self as context can make it difficult for us to extend compassion and understanding towards ourselves in times of distress.
  3. Impaired resilience: Without a broader perspective on ourselves, we may struggle to adapt and cope with life’s challenges, leading to decreased resilience.

How to Develop It

  1. Mindfulness practice: Engaging in regular mindfulness practice can help to cultivate an awareness of the observing self, fostering a broader perspective on our experiences.
  2. Reflective exercises: Reflecting on our values, strengths, and long-term goals can help to solidify our sense of self as context.
  3. Perspective-taking: Actively seeking to view our experiences from various perspectives can promote a greater understanding of self as context.

5. Values

ACT Hexaflex model - 5. Values

Values, within the context of ACT, are the deeply held beliefs and principles that guide our behaviour and give our lives meaning and purpose. They are the compass that directs our actions and helps us navigate the challenges and opportunities that life presents.

How It Helps Us

  1. Increased motivation: When our actions are aligned with our values, we are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in our pursuits.
  2. Enhanced well-being: Living in accordance with our values can contribute to greater psychological well-being and life satisfaction.
  3. Improved decision-making: Having a clear understanding of our values can help us make more informed and consistent decisions that align with our long-term goals.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Reduced motivation: Without a clear understanding of our values, we may struggle to find the motivation to pursue our goals and aspirations.
  2. Decreased well-being: When our actions are not aligned with our values, we may experience feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, and decreased well-being.
  3. Impaired decision-making: A lack of clarity around our values can lead to inconsistent and poorly informed decision-making, ultimately hindering our progress towards our goals.

How to Develop It

  1. Values clarification exercises: Engaging in activities designed to help us identify and clarify our values can promote greater self-awareness and alignment with our beliefs.
  2. Reflection and journaling: Regular reflection and journaling can help to deepen our understanding of our values and how they influence our actions.
  3. Mindful value-based action: Practicing mindful, value-based action can help to reinforce our values and ensure they are consistently guiding our behaviour.

6. Committed Action

ACT Hexaflex model - 6. Committed Action

Committed action, as defined by ACT, is the process of consciously choosing to engage in behaviours that are aligned with our values and will move us closer to our goals. It involves taking deliberate, purposeful action to create a life that is consistent with our beliefs and aspirations.

How It Helps Us

  1. Progress towards goals: Engaging in committed action helps us to make steady progress towards our goals and aspirations, ultimately enhancing our quality of life.
  2. Increased self-efficacy: By consistently taking value-based actions, we can bolster our confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles and achieve our desired outcomes.
  3. Enhanced psychological flexibility: Committed action supports the development of psychological flexibility by encouraging adaptive and flexible behaviour in the face of life’s challenges.

Issues If It Isn’t Present

  1. Stagnation: A lack of committed action can lead to stagnation and hinder our progress towards our goals and aspirations.
  2. Decreased self-efficacy: Without consistent, value-based action, our confidence in our ability to achieve our goals may diminish.
  3. Reduced psychological flexibility: In the absence of committed action, our ability to adapt and cope with life’s challenges may be compromised, leading to decreased psychological flexibility.

How to Develop It

  1. Goal-setting: Establishing clear, specific, and achievable goals that align with our values can help to guide our committed action.
  2. Action planning: Developing detailed action plans can support our efforts to engage in committed action by providing a roadmap for success.
  3. Accountability: Seeking out accountability partners or support networks can help to reinforce our commitment to taking value-based action.

Using ACT in Coaching

As a coach, incorporating ACT principles and techniques can be a powerful way to support clients in their personal and professional growth. By helping clients develop psychological flexibility, coaches can enable them to better navigate the challenges they face, align their actions with their values, and ultimately enhance their overall well-being and life satisfaction.


In conclusion, the six stages of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) serve as a roadmap for developing psychological flexibility and enhancing well-being. By cultivating acceptance, cognitive defusion, mindfulness, self as context, values, and committed action, individuals can better navigate the complexities of life and create a fulfilling, value-driven existence.

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