dr. Pieternel Dijkstra

Social Psychologist


I provide individual and team coaching on the basis of the principles underlying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT consists of a training in life skills that helps individuals and groups to become more psychologically flexible and improve their ability to cope with life’s challenges and obstacles.

The core of ACT-coaching is that negative events and the pain and negative emotions that stem from it are inherent to human life. However, instead of accepting this reality, people often avoid situations they fear, and tend to suppress emotional pain and negative emotions. Although this may work temporarily, in the long run this avoidance often creates psychological and relational problems.

In ACT people learn to disentangle themselves from anxious thoughts that keep them from value- and goal-directed behavior

As an alternative, ACT-coaching helps people to experience the full range of emotions and events that make up life. To facilitate this, in ACT people learn to disentangle themselves from anxious thoughts that tell them that life is frightening and should be kept under control rather than be experienced. People are taught how to develop a more flexible and dynamic sense of the self, one that differs from the limited and often rigid self-image that many individuals build up during childhood and adult life. With these new insights and tools people are encouraged to discover their values – those things that really matter to them in life – and are helped to work towards goals that are in line with these values. In sum, ACT teaches people how they can live a rich and meaningful life with all of the negative experiences and emotional pain that are part of life as well.

ACT has its roots in positive psychology, and many scientific studies have found evidence for the effectiveness of ACT in reducing, among others, feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, burnout, addiction, and in helping people cope with chronic pain. In my book Mindfulness op het werk/Mindfulness at work I have applied the principles of ACT to the work context.