Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #243
CE Offered: None

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Behavior Analysis

Sunday, May 29, 2005
3:30 PM–4:20 PM
Williford A (3rd floor)
Area: CBM; Domain: Theory
CE Instructor: Kelly G. Wilson, Ed.D.
Chair: Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
STEVEN C. HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno)
Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. An author of twenty five books and 340 scientific articles, his career has focused on an analysis of the nature of human language and cognition and the application of this to the understanding and alleviation of human suffering. In 1992 he was listed by the Institute for Scientific Information as the 30th "highest impact" psychologist in the world during 1986-1990 based on the citation impact of his writings during that period. Dr. Hayes has been President of Division 25 of the American Psychological Association, of the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology and of the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy. He was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the American Psychological Society, which he helped form. He has received the Don F. Hake Award for Exemplary Contributions to Basic Behavioral Research and Its Applications from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association and was appointed by US Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to a 5 year term on the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse in the National Institutes of Health.

Applied behavior analysis has become dominated by the study of developmental disabilities and a few other problem areas where direct contingency principles provide relatively adequate guidance for technological development. Basic behavior analysis is struggling for its identity and indeed for its very survival. Both situations are symptoms of the same problem: the failure to provide an adequate account of human language and cognition. In this talk I review the empirical and conceptual progress of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is one of a small number of new third wave interventions that is fundamentally changing modern behavioral and cognitive therapy. In the five years since the first major outcome study on ACT appeared, successful outcome studies have shown that ACT is helpful in the areas of stress, substance abuse, smoking, diabetes, pain, anxiety, psychosis, prejudice, parenting, and other areas. Both the breadth of application of ACT and the data on its processes of change comport with its underlying theory, Relational Frame Theory (RFT). Since the combination of functional contextualism, RFT, and ACT is at its essence an expression and extension of the core assumptions of behavior analysis, empirical and conceptual progress in this area carries with it a broader lesson: It is useful for behavior analysis to embrace the empirical and conceptual analysis of language and cognition, and explore the applied implications of that analysis. There are barriers to be overcome in both the applied and basic areas before the opportunities that lesson affords can be realized, however. If these barriers can be addressed there is little to prevent behavior analysis from becoming much more central to modern psychology without having to abandon any of its core commitments.




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