I’m TONI HANNA
Years as a Social Worker
Years practicing ACT
Hours of ACT education
Cups of Coffee
Some see a weed | some see a wish
The Journey to Here
I want to take you on a little journey that changed my life – and I know it can change yours too. It was 2009. I had been a Social Worker for 20 years already and was at a little cross-roads. For twenty years I had worked in drug and alcohol, mental health and community health and had provided counselling to hundreds, no thousands of people. I had also started a private practice counselling service so that I could work on my own terms (perhaps I foolishly thought I could escape some of the paperwork … but that’s another story!)
So yeah back to 2009 – I had two small children and I was growing a business. I was feeling deflated that the private practice dream was far more difficult than I imagined… not the clinical work, because that was what I loved. But the business side and the paperwork … oh the paperwork … wow, we’re back there already?!
The short version is that I was getting despondent. The fire had gone out in my belly. I thought working harder would light it up again. Nope. I thought taking on a wider variety of clients would spark me up. Nope.
Have you ever been at that point where you desperately know something has to change, but you just don’t know what it is? Yeah that’s the feeling I’m talking about. That feeling that keeps you awake with a little gnawing at your brain – like a woodpecker trying to get your attention, but you can’t understand the message. Well, that’s where I was. I would be lying and saying I didn’t have daydreams of packing it all in and opening a bookstore… although I can’t quite say with confidence that that one has been completely scratched from the list!
Anyway, I can’t even remember how I found about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ‘ACT’ training. I guess somebody recommended it or I read about it somewhere. Nevertheless, in 2009 I attended my first ACT workshop. I immediately saw the connection between the social work approach I’d been using in my counselling for years – and this wonderfully cohesive way of working with issues like anxiety and depression.
Since that first workshop, I have attended or undertaken hundreds of hours of training, supervision and self-directed learning in ACT. I’ve used it as my primary therapeutic approach with many issues – including relationship counselling, working with autism, trauma, grief, anxiety and depression, and stress related to workplace issues. I’ve also developed 2 ACT training programs – one for Indigenous employees, and the other for injured workers.
The more I learn about ACT and other contextual behavioural approaches, the more enthusiastic I am about how powerful they can be in changing people’s lives. I’m also passionate about the connection to social work and how much of a natural fit this is to the broader outlook of our profession – think about the word ‘context’.
Little did I know, that that one day in 2009 would change the course of my personal and professional life forever.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy tapped into the very core of my dissatisfaction. I thought I was going to learn some new counselling skills to use in my practice and was not ready for the personal light-bulb moments that would continue to light me up. ACT allowed me the space to really dive deep into my core values and to recognise the pain caused by not living in alignment with them.
To recognise that pain – and allow it to be. Not fight it. Not try to cure it. Just let it exist. I started to learn to live in the moment, or as we like to call it in ACT – mindfully. I learned the skills to deal with past pains without allowing them to overwhelm me. I learned how to curiously investigate my responses and reactions without judgement. I learned how to envision a life that was aligned with my values and carve out the steps to make that happen.
And that is why I know ACT can change your life too. You might have stumbled on this page because you have been looking for counselling, or you may have tried the stock-standard CBT with umpteen other counsellors with little change, or you may be a therapist (social worker, psychologist, counsellor) who is looking to upskill. Whatever your reason for diving into ACT – I am here, and I can help you change your life. As an ACT therapist I live and breathe by its principles and practices and I have benefited from being mentored by its leaders.
I would be honoured to help you kick-start your journey with ACT.