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A little about the origins of the ACT Matrix, by Kevin Polk, Ph.D.

I was led to the ACT because it was a revolutionary way of administering Exposure Therapy.

Why was Exposure Therapy important to me?

I had a position at the Veterans Administration and the tools that I was using were ineffective. All of my patient suffered from PTSD. All of them. There were no mild cases. I needed tools that would help these veterans heal from the trauma of war.

I do not think I had a single patient that was not active during one of our wars. I desperately wanted to help. I wanted to make an impact.

Not only did I want to make a name for myself in my field. (I think each of us should make significant waves in our field.) But I sincerely wanted to guide my patients through the therapeutic breakthroughs they each sought out.

Psychology is already devalued as a science. Some still think of us as pseudo. So, the only way to prove our value is to really help people. If you can help 1000 people during your career, that will ripple into millions of people that are more likely to seek professional help for their psychological issues.

That was a tangent. Let me get back to where I was…

Let’s look at exposure therapy. I pulled this directly from APA website.

What Is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure therapy is a psychological treatment that was developed to help people confront their fears. When people are fearful of something, they tend to avoid the feared objects, activities or situations. Although this avoidance might help reduce feelings of fear in the short term, over the long term it can make the fear become even worse. In such situations, a psychologist might recommend a program of exposure therapy in order to help break the pattern of avoidance and fear. In this form of therapy, psychologists create a safe environment in which to “expose” individuals to the things they fear and avoid. The exposure to the feared objects, activities or situations in a safe environment helps reduce fear and decrease avoidance.

Exposure therapy has been scientifically demonstrated to be a helpful treatment or treatment component for a range of problems, including:

  • Phobias
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are several variations of exposure therapy. Your psychologist can help you determine which strategy is best for you. These include:

  • In vivo exposure: Directly facing a feared object, situation or activity in real life. For example, someone with a fear of snakes might be instructed to handle a snake, or someone with social anxiety might be instructed to give a speech in front of an audience.
  • Imaginal exposure: Vividly imagining the feared object, situation or activity. For example, someone with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder might be asked to recall and describe his or her traumatic experience in order to reduce feelings of fear.
  • Virtual reality exposure: In some cases, virtual reality technology can be used when in vivo exposure is not practical. For example, someone with a fear of flying might take a virtual flight in the psychologist's office, using equipment that provides the sights, sounds and smells of an airplane.
  • Interoceptive exposure: Deliberately bringing on physical sensations that are harmless yet feared. For example, someone with Panic Disorder might be instructed to run in place in order to make his or her heart speed up, and therefore learn that this sensation is not dangerous.

Exposure therapy can also be paced in different ways. These include:

  • Graded exposure: The psychologist helps the client construct an exposure fear hierarchy, in which feared objects, activities or situations are ranked according to difficulty. They begin with mildly or moderately difficult exposures, then progress to harder ones.
  • Flooding: Using the exposure fear hierarchy to begin exposure with the most difficult tasks.
  • Systematic desensitization: In some cases, exposure can be combined with relaxation exercises to make them feel more manageable and to associate the feared objects, activities or situations with relaxation.

Exposure therapy is thought to help in several ways, including:

  • Habituation: Over time, people find that their reactions to feared objects or situations decrease.
  • Extinction: Exposure can help weaken previously learned associations between feared objects, activities or situations and bad outcomes.
  • Self-efficacy: Exposure can help show the client that he/she is capable of confronting his/her fears and can manage the feelings of anxiety.
  • Emotional processing: During exposure, the client can learn to attach new, more realistic beliefs about feared objects, activities or situations, and can become more comfortable with the experience of fear.

Source: APA Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology)

Exposure Therapy was effective but not in the way that most psychologist administered it. So, I was on a quest to find better way…

I Found ACT

Once I discovered the ACT method, I dived in head first. It was exactly what I was looking for. I knew this methodology would help me with my patients at the VA.

Dr. Steven Hayes did a remarkable job with his method. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy was a better way of using Exposure Therapy especially for PTSD patients. Many clinical psychologists don't know that. That is why the ACT Matrix spread so well. Because when patients and colleagues were demonstrated the Matrix Method (before, it had that name) they were feeling the effects of properly applied ACT.

Years later, after I developed the Matrix as a Method, I have been able to help so many, literally hundreds almost thousands of psychologists restructure their sessions to have more impact.

You don’t hear much about breakthroughs in psychology, especially when it is contained in the Veterans Hospitals, but in the Veteran Administration Hospitals they discovered the ACT Method works. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy works like magic. But there was something tangible that the ACT Method was missing.

I discovered the Missing Piece That Makes ACT work like a charm. When I wrote my second book on Acceptance and Commitment therapy, I explained it in the following terms.

  • Yet ACT is a transdiagnostic model based on a radically pragmatic point of view wherein even the use of traditional diagnostic categories is seen through the lens of whether they get us where we want to go. From an ACT perspective, effective treatment doesn’t hinge on seeing most mental and behavioral health problems as diseases. It’s more useful to determine which processes are most effective in helping people live optimally and which processes keep them stuck, restricting their behavioral options and draining meaning and vitality from their lives.

Traditionally, ACT has focused on six processes that together combine to promote psychological flexibility: cognitive defusion, acceptance, committed action, values, contact with the present moment, and self-as-context.

  • Cognitive defusion is the ability to distance yourself from your thoughts and feelings so they don’t necessarily control your behavior.
  • Acceptance is the ability, once you’ve gained some distance from your sticky thoughts and feelings, to make space for them and do what is important for you to do, rather than giving up on your goals and engaging in actions aimed at reducing or changing your thoughts and feeling(calling in sick to move away from the fear and thoughts that you won’t be able to speak in public).
  • Acceptance allows you to do what is important to you, leading us to the ACT process known as committed action.
  • Committed action is simply behavior undertaken to move toward who or what is important to us, even in the presence of obstacles. This brings us to a fourth ACT process: values.
  • Values are highly individualized. In ACT parlance, “values” refers to how we choose and hold important the people, things, and ways of being that matter to us in life.
  • Contact with the present moment is a process of noticing whatever shows up in the moment— not just thoughts and feelings, but also bodily sensations, what you can perceive with your five senses, and whatever else may show up in the moment.
  • Self-as-context, sometimes referred to as the observer self, is the final process. This refers to the ability to step back and take a flexible perspective on what you think, feel, perceive, and do.

Traditionally, the six core ACT processes have been presented as a hexagon known as the hexaflex (shown in figure 2). The hexaflex offers a good conceptual description of how ACT works. Of course, there’s a big difference between concepts and actions. And when people, clinicians included, are stuck, they rarely need concepts; they need skills.

Relational Frame Theory

A fair amount of RFT is about how sensory experience is transformed into words. Take

the word “lemon,” for example. As you experienced lemons in early life, you added the frames “yellow,” “sour,” “juicy,” and so forth to the sound “lemon” until finally, as you said the word “lemon,” those frames showed up in your experience. In a way, you became a bit fused (restricted) in your experiencing of lemons, but that works because it’s handy to know your experience of lemons. However, this can be taken too far. Let’s say that once you became ill after eating a lemon, so now you frame “illness” with “lemon.” Then, in the future when you see a recipe that needs a bit of lemon, you might say, “Never! I hate lemons. I will never use lemons.” You can see how your future behavior (using lemon in a recipe) might be limited by your previous framing of the word “lemon” with illness.

Words are usually used within sentences, and those sentences often come together to form stories. In this way, certain words can become a part of a story that keeps people stuck—for example, “I don’t use lemons because they made me sick in the past.” If you stick with that story, you’ll narrow your culinary choices.

Let’s take this a little further. Say you hear that Judy likes lemons. The “Judy” frame becomes part of your lemon story. And say Judy once lied to you. Now the frame “lied” is also part of your lemon story. This may lead you to something you never thought before: People who like lemons are not to be trusted. As a result, you might become uncomfortable around people who like lemons, and that might limit your behavior around them? 

Forming these kinds of connections is known as derived relational responding. It is derived because its functions and consequences are not contained in five-senses experience. It is relational because the derivation is a result of relating, or framing, one set of words or inner experiences with another set of words or inner experiences. And it is responding because it leads to a response: a toward or away behavior resulting from this framing.

Functional Contextualism, 

upon which ACT is based, is a pragmatic point of view. With ACT, we are searching for useful ways to help people learn what works to increase valued living in diverse situations and life circumstances. With workability, we aren’t focusing on right and wrong; we are simply and pragmatically looking for behaviors that enhance valued living. Functional contextualism is nonjudgmental. Behaviors simply have purposes and work, to a greater or lesser extent, to facilitate valued living. The judgmental terms “good” and “bad” are seldom used within the functional contextual point of view. Functional contextualism holds all categorizations lightly, because the more we try to fit something into a category and keep it there, the more inflexibility shows up. Since all matrix work is targeted at increasing psychological flexibility, a rigid attachment to categories rarely works. Books are relatively poor tools for learning, especially when it comes to learning a practice.


The methods mentioned above are proven concepts. They are excellent and effective. But they mean nothing to a patient if you do not have a tool to demonstrate them.

The Matrix Method demonstrates all of those methods simultaneously. And it’s simple! The Matrix Method has proven itself time and time again.

Many of my colleagues who work with the Matrix Method have told me countless stories of how they use the Matrix Method in their personal lives with family.

How I Failed when first using ACT in my therapy sessions

ACT in itself is a powerful method. However, ACT is not necessarily a tool. I don’t know if you have tried to use the ACT method in your patient sessions, if so, where do you begin? With ACT you have to get the patient in a very susceptible state. This requires a lot of trust, and a lot of skill. It tethers the line of hypnotherapy.

When you are actually using the ACT method in practice, that is what you are doing, you are doing a mild degree of hypnotherapy. The problem with that is when hypnotherapy is not your area of expertise, you may look foolish and inexperienced trying to use it in your practice. That happens to a lot of psychologists. They experiment with new methods because they genuinely desire a more effective tool. So, we are required to constantly read up on and research the latest advances in our field. When we find a technique or a method that we understand, our next step is to experiment with it.

The problem with that is when you start experimenting with new methods, there’s always a learning curve. You have to learn how to fit a new method or technique into your style of therapy. Also, you have to get compliance from your patient to try out new methods.

The last thing you want to do when in a therapy session with a patient is to appear unsure. So when you start to use new methods, you can only be so sure about how they will work.

I experienced this first hand, when I was learning about the ACT Method. Everything about the method was powerful. It made total sense. But when I went to use it with my patients. There was a major disconnect.

I wasn’t getting through to anyone. It was saddening. I had this new idea, and I knew it could work. It was already working for Dr Hayes, but I could not grasp how to implement it into my practice. I brainstormed until I had headaches. This brainstorming session was not a one-day event. I racked my brains for days, weeks and months. Every chance I had; I would tweak my approach. Most of what I did was based in ACT.

I knew this method was a modern take on ancient mindfulness. I knew that this method could create lasting paradigm shifts for my clients. But I did not know how to do it. I did not know how to use the ACT method.

I knew all the information. I was interested and abreast on all the history. I had looked into the various tribes and villages that, thousands of years ago. I had supporting evidence that ACT worked. But it was fresh, it was revolutionary, it was a new wave in psychology. We we were ushering in this new wave I felt empowered as I studied the psychology journals and publications.

But in my sessions, I felt stuck...Every time.

I felt like an imposter.

 It took years of feeling like a failure in my practice before I discovered the Matrix.

Since discovering the Matrix Method, I still continue to try out other methods. But none have brought back better results than the Matrix. The Matrix Method has proven itself to be so reliable. I can count on it. In any situation. It always allows the person or people using it to resolve conflict effectively.


I remember sitting down with a patient suffering from severe OCD. He could not walk in or out of any door without going through this sterilization ritual.

He felt he would be wiser to wear gloves everywhere.

To compound with his OCD, he thought he would be viewed like Michael Jackson wearing the surgeons mask.

He feared being outcast by his peers and loved ones. You know, all the people he deemed to be normal. ’He wanted to be normal. He wanted to shake hands and slap fives and walk through doors without fighting off a panic attack.

But he couldn’t. And someone recommended him to me…

 I felt like I was shrinking as he told me about the reasons that brought him to me. I thought ‘there is nothing I can do for this man’. I have felt this way many times in my early career. I talk to psychologist every week that tell me they still experience these feelings. Even after decades of practice. They feel they are ill equipped.

After our first session, I looked through all the notes I could to help me create a bridge that may lead to actual therapy for my client. The only thing that I felt worthy of trial was the Matrix Method. After a few sessions using the Matrix with my client he reported that he was feeling less anxious. He no longer had to go through his elaborate routines before opening doors and touching public handles. He now is able to get along like the ‘normal people’ around him. And I noticed something as well. Helping this one patient helped me. Using the Matrix with him shaped my entire viewpoint on myself as a professional. Since then, I have had nothing but ease in my practice. I train counselors and therapist in the Matrix Method every month. I have written about my adaptation of the Matrix Method with a colleague of mine. We altered the Matrix Method slightly and have certified others in our method which is widely used up here in Canada. I highly recommend you get certified in the Matrix Method. It will absolutely transform your practice.

-Timothy Gordon social worker


Each session I was scheduled for felt like a game of roulette. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. And the ones were on me, as the therapist, to make sure everything worked. But how do I know what works?

What does the therapist do when he doesn’t feel he has a practical solution?

When I sat down with my clients after discovering ACT, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to get each of my patients to ground themselves. I knew I want to have patient sort through his/ her emotional processes along with the actions that trigger those emotions. I knew that I wanted to incorporate some form of sorting into my practice.

But I did not know how to articulate my techniques to help my clients. I needed something more than a concept. The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy concept was genius, but it was not enough to make the breakthroughs that my patients deserved.

You have to understand ACT to understand why ACT was so revolutionary.

Before ACT, someone in my field, any other clinical psychologist would be charged with the mission to heal or cure his patient’s mental illness. That’s Jesus level stuff.

Nobody cures mental illness. The stuff that creates the illness and imbalance is so deeply rooted. It is so complex. And the problems become so intertwined with our daily routines that it takes two lifetimes to unravel the trauma created in one lifetime. Since we don’t have that kind of time, we need a different approach to psychological problems.

We need to accept our problems and commit to the actions that allow us to cope with our problems instead of allowing our problems to control our lives.

When I first understood that doctrine I was floored. It made so much sense. It was so simple. Why was I not taught this while getting my doctorate?

It doesn’t matter. I just knew that I now had a better approach to serving my clients.

The ideas and concept that were presented in ACT made sense. But they did not offer any practical applications that I could see. I was intimidated by the information. I did not want to intimidate my clients. So, I decided to fiddle around with things. I tried to see what would work, and what would not.

Then One day it struck me

I had finished reading another "ACT" book called Derived Relational Responding, and I stood up to the whiteboard to create a trauma-memory sorting game. Instead of the game, the first rendition of the two lines, later to called "The Matrix" showed up.

That was it. The Matrix was born. That little, simple idea has been used to transform the careers of counselors, psychologists, and coaches.

Now I want to make it available for you to transform your practice:

The matrix will:

  • Eliminate the insecurity of not knowing how to gauge a patient or session
  • Give you a tool to use with anyone
  • Provide you with the authority to supervise other clinical professionals
  • Allow you to teach psychological flexibility to others

You will also

  • Learn how to respond to anger with genuine curiosity
  • Learn sticky words, what they are and how to diffuse them
  • Learn verbal aikido
  • Training others to use techniques to trick their minds into anticipating growth and satisfaction
  • Psychological flexibility

Just to skip ahead a little, …

There is no learning curve with the Matrix Method. There is no extra level of compliance needed to administer it in a session. The reason the Matrix Method works so well is because it is simple. The simplicity of the Matrix Method almost defies science. Unlike the ACT Method, or Exposure Therapy, or RFT, or Cognitive Therapy, the Matrix Method can be used with anyone in any setting. I get emails everyday of people telling me how they use the Matrix Method.

We program our own selves with the techniques we use. Think about that.  You become your method. Remember that, you are your method. And most likely in your personal life as well, you reflect the modalities of your method. The more you use it. The more you train yourself in that method. Your method shapes the person and the professional you become.



  • Certification
  • 1-year free access to web pass
  • Association with professionals certified with same method
  • Lineage connecting you to all doctors in the third wave of psychotherapy


Normal certifications of this type costs you thousands of dollars.

Instead of charging the $2145 that this certification is worth

The PRICE is currently


But I will offer you a $495 discount if you act now

Discount: $495

And you get

  • Certification ($1995 value)
  • 1-year free access to web pass (an additional $120 value)
  • Association with professionals certified with same method
  • Lineage connecting you to all doctors in the third wave of psychotherapy 

P.S.: You can continue to learn from me as I demonstrate the Matrix Method in our Webinars. Or you can take advantage of this discount I am offering you now and get priority when booking your one-on-one coaching sessions when it’s most convenient for you. Thanks

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Welcome To The Matrix Academy!

I'm Dr. Kevin Polk, and I'm dedicated to teaching you how to influence people toward being the best version of themselves.

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Some More Testimonials

Donna Read (Denver)

“I’ve been using the ACT Matrix created by Dr. Polk for at least five years now as part of my clinical and consulting practices and am adept at using the Matrix. The Matrix is a flexible and deceptively simple tool that can be used in pretty much every situation where people want to move toward their goals in spite of the stuff holding them back. As a member of the ProSocial Matrix Professional Development Program, I have deepened and broadened my skills and become part of a vibrant, supportive community working diligently to bring the Matrix into the world. In addition, being part of our Matrix tribe has increased my focus, productivity, and given me a strong belief in my ability to make a difference wherever I use it.   

As for you, joining the Matrix Professional Development Program will provide you with the benefits of having Dr. Polk as a mentor and precious resource as well as of membership in a vibrant, supportive community of professionals working together to bring society to a higher level of consciousness. You can only gain by joining our program.”

Donna C. Read, MA, CCTP, CCP

Consultant/Coach/ Psychotherapist
Doctoral Candidate, Leadership and Organizational/Personal Transformation
ProSocial/Matrix Professional Trainer

Cliff Jekel (D.C.)

"When I first enrolled in the ACT Matrix Academy I considered myself a student. As a lifelong learner I am always interested in expanding my horizons.

But as time has gone on, I am starting to feel more like a convert! The ACT Matrix is so flexible, so elegant, so powerful, and so relevant in almost every situation, that I am now using it as the context for all my coaching, consulting, and personal development work.

No matter what your personal or professional goals, I cannot imagine you won't be inspired and energized by developing a deep level of comfort and facility with the ACT Matrix. And I am confident there is no more direct way to do that than by committing yourself to the ACT Matrix Academy. For me it was one of the best moves I have made in a very long time."

Coach and ProSocial Matrix Trainer

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