Ben Sedley

Ben Sedley

Wellington, NEW ZEALAND

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy


Compassionate and insightful

Ben Sedley is a clinical psychologist and ACT therapist with fifteen years' experience in both primary health centres and community mental health teams in New Zealand and London, working with children, adolescents, adults and families facing mental health difficulties. Currently, Ben works as a Clinical Practice Advisor at Victoria University of Wellington, and well as maintaining a private practice. His book Stuff that Sucks: A Teen's Guide to Accepting what you can't change and Committing to what you can has received praise from young people, parents and clinicians around the world and was included in the UK Reading Well programme, which has led to it being recommended by GPs across England. Since the release of that book, Ben has been touring New Zealand and Australia introducing ways to use ACT with young people. Ben's new book, co-authored with Lisa Coyne is called Stuff that's Loud: A Teen's Guide to Unspiralling from OCD. 




Stuff That Sucks

Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy with Young People

Each of us has thoughts that are painful: sometimes the pain is sadness, sometimes worry or anger or shame or grief or some feeling that you don't even have words for. Young people often struggle with thoughts and emotions, and they don't want to be told that 'everyone feels like that' or that 'you will grow out of it'. They want to feel that their emotions are valid and that the person offering help truly understands how painful life can feel at times. With a strong emphasis on validation and compassion, Stuff That Sucks shows you how to work with your client to accept their emotions rather than struggling against them. It also shows how to reconnect with what is really important to them, giving them the tools to help clarify their personal values and take steps towards living a life where those values can guide them in their day-to-day choices and behaviour.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an empirically supported therapeutic approach that draws on behavioural and mindfulness principles to help people make space for painful thoughts and feelings and instead turn their focus towards values. ACT is rapidly growing in popularity internationally and is being used successfully with people experiencing a range of life challenges including low mood, worries, difficult behaviour, anger, anxiety, and interpersonal or family conflict. This workshop will introduce participants to the fundamentals of ACT with a specific focus on its successful application with younger people.  


This topic can be presented as a conference keynote or workshop to professionals, educators, parents and young people


Q & A

What inspired you to write Stuff That Sucks?

I have been using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for years. It is what helps me when I'm struggling with painful thoughts and emotions, and it seems to make sense to many of the young people I work with in my psychology practice. So I decided to share some of my ways of explaining these ideas in a way that allows readers to feel validated and respected.

Why is the first step to change accepting what you can't change?

The first step is to breathe in. Notice all the stories your mind is telling you and be aware of all the emotions bouncing around inside you. Then breathe out. Notice that even when your mind is saying you can't tolerate these mean thoughts and painful feelings, your experience is telling you that there is room inside you for them. You are able to hold these things, even if you wish you didn't have them. And if you don't have to struggle against them, then that frees up a whole lot of energy to committing to things you care about.

What should we commit to change?

The challenge for every human is to figure out what we each care about and then care about it. What is one thing I can do today to make me feel like I have taken a step closer to be living the meaningful vital life I want to live? It doesn't matter if it's a big step or a tiny step, as long as it is in the direction of the Stuff that Matters, the things I care about. It could be doing one more thing to be the kind of friend I want to be, or the kind of family member I want to be, or the kind of human I want to be or something else that really matters to me.

What are your top tips for parents who have teenagers struggling with their emotions?


Listen some more.

Create opportunities where your teen might talk.

If they start talking, be ready to listen.

Don't problem solve or give advice unless they specifically ask. Just keep listening, acknowledge that you can hear their pain and that you care.

Living with all emotions is part of being a human, you can't protect your teen from that. But you can be available to sit with them as they experience them. By not rushing in to tell them to 'cheer up' or 'stop worrying' or telling them what to do, you are teaching them that you believe in them, you don't see them as broken or wrong for having these feelings, but instead as human as the rest of us.

Book Ben for your next event!




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