“Let’s Start at the Very Beginning”: A Teaching Tool for Intersubjective Systems Field Theory and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Jamie Shapiro, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Tippett, Psy.D.

Third Committee Member

Brian Beaumund, Psy.D.


Applied teaching tool, Behavior, Psychotherapy, Multicultural issues

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


Graduate students receive numerous opportunities to learn the practice of psychotherapy through coursework, training videos, supervision, comprehensive exams, and, especially, readings. In this writer's experience, readings often emphasize theory over application and are lengthy and technical. The new student therapist may find themselves practicing without fully understanding the theoretical reasoning behind what they are doing. There is room to improve on available teaching tools by providing briefer, less technical alternatives that demonstrate theory in practice. This resource illustrates the practice of two therapeutic modalities, intersubjective systems field theory and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This teaching tool aims to give new therapists a foundation for their theoretically-based practice by illustration through a case study. The following elements of each theory will be discussed: (a) the therapeutic relationship, (b) assessment and treatment planning, (c) defining the problem, (d) the change process and solutions, and (e) cultural and diversity variables. The paper ends with a table summarizing the distinctions between the two theories. By using this teaching tool thoughtfully, the reader can develop a firm, beginning foundation in the practice of either treatment modality. This teaching tool holds promise as a foundation and framework for efficiently and pragmatically teaching therapy to new therapists.


The language “let’s start at the very beginning” is a lyric from “Do-Re-Mi”, a song in the musical “The Sound of Music (Rodgers & Hammerstein II, 1965).


32 pgs

Paper Method

Treatment Manual, Case Study

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