My ACT Journey

February 3, 2021

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I'm Diana!

Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion

hello,

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About Diana

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As a clinical psychologist and expert in acceptance based and science backed approaches to living well, I help you find breathing room from your problems so you can build a rich and meaningful life.

It’s human to:

  • Have unhelpful thoughts
  • Experience unconfortable emotions and cravings
  • Get stuck in patterns and habits that don’t align with our values

In my practice, workshops, podcasts and mentoring, I use the combined tools of compassion and ACT to help you get unstuck and live more fully.

Because it’s through this connection and these tools that you can:

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  • Accept and allow painful emotions so you can access the values underneath
  • Step back from your thoughts and learn to see your mind as an advisor, not your boss
  • Define what matters most to you, and take actions in that direction

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ACT is powerful stuff.

I use it in my daily life – as a therapist, parent, partner, friend, and fellow human. And it’s made me more loving, more present, more compassionate, and more brave.

With ACT I feel more vitality and meaning where it matters most.

And I want you to experience that too.

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My ACT Journey

 

I used to want to be a snail when I grew up. I liked the idea of having my home on my back wherever I went. My ACT Journey has helped me find that home. I now dwell in the ACT processes of being present, accepting my vulnerabilities, and living out my values, and I carry them with me wherever I go. As you read my ACT Journey, you’ll see how these processes traveled with me.

 

Brain Science, Mindfulness, or Both?

 

I didn’t take a direct path to ACT. Intrigued by the intersection of brain, body and behavior, I studied biopsychology (the physiology and neuroscience of behavior) as a premedical student at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). I also began practicing yoga and mindfulness to manage my struggles with anxiety and eating. During my senior summer of college I traveled to study with Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh at his monastery in Plum Village France to deepen my practice. He offered a different approach to my problems — one that was loving, present, and accepting. I also sorted out and prioritized my values. I took a year off to apply these teachings to my own recovery and shifted my career path to clinical psychology.

 

I pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of Colorado at Boulder under the mentorship of Dr. Linda Craighead where I received extensive training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and in how to conduct and interpret clinical research.

 

Yet, something was missing. Turning towards my values again, I returned to spiritual practice at Eldorado Mountain Yoga Ashram. With renewed clarity and commitment, I came back to my research with the goal of examining evidence-based models that embraced the whole person, utilizing acceptance and mindfulness to create a meaningful and rich life.

 

I sought mentorship from Dr. Debra Safer at Stanford School of Medicine, who at the time was one of the few researchers developing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for binge eating and bulimia. DBT was one of the first science-backed programs that integrated concepts such as mindfulness, acceptance, and meaning into a behavioral treatment. With the support of Dr. Craighead and Dr. Safer, I conducted my dissertation on Appetite-Focused Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Binge Eating with Purging. I was moving in the right direction.

 

Psychologist, Human, or Both?

 

I met Dr. Kelly Wilson, a co-developer of ACT, in 2006 in Denver, Colorado. Kelly drew the ACT processes on a white board, while he shared his personal story of loss, addiction, and recovery. He cried; we all cried with him. It was the first time I saw a psychologist be a human. I felt liberated. If I could be human and be a psychologist it meant I no longer had to hide my vulnerabilities or my values but could embrace both as resources to guide my work, setting my clients free to do so too.

 

I completed a yearlong pre-doctoral internship at University of California, Davis Counseling and Psychological Services (UC Davis CAPS) under the directorship of Dr. Kristee Haggins. With an emphasis in multicultural counseling, I learned how race, culture, and oppression permeate every aspect of living, including what happens in the therapy room. I explored what it meant to be a white ally through self-reflection, perspective taking, and compassionate action. I began my never-ending journey of becoming a more culturally and ethnoculturally responsive human.

 

An Integrative Model of Mental Health

 

In 2008, I took a job as Clinical Director of La Luna Center Northern Colorado branch. I had the freedom to design the treatment program and built ACT groups, supervised doctoral students in ACT, and thrived in my work and personal life. The ACT processes were doing as promised – I was living a purpose-driven life and using that vitality to help others do so too.

 

Motherhood shifted my perspective on most everything. With my values at the forefront, I left my beloved job as clinical director and moved back to Santa Barbara, to start a private therapy and consulting practice, raise my kids, and grow our homestead.

 

In an effort to stay connected to the most current psychology research, I started a podcast called Psychologists Off the Clock with my friend and colleague, Dr. Debbie Sorenson. Each week, we interview leaders in the field of ACT and psychology–many of whom shaped my approach to mental wellness. Psychologists Off the Clock has given me the opportunity to continue to live out my values–of lifelong learning and evidence-based practice. It has also offered me friendship and collaboration with my co-hosts (we’ve now grown to 4!), who also strive to engage in values-rich work, parenting and life.

 

My practice, workshop offerings, and podcast integrate everything I’ve learned thus far about what it takes to thrive as a human. I’ve discovered:

The richness in being present
The vitality in values-rich living
The necessity of perspective taking
The potential in acceptance
The freedom in stepping back from our thoughts
The kindness in committed action
The power of compassion

 

I hope you, too, can discover the power of ACT in building a rich and meaningful life.

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I'm a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-out speaker on Wise Effort and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Dr. Diana Hill

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