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.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #386
Psychological Flexibility and Difficult Clinical Presentations
Monday, May 25, 2009
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
North 222 AB
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Scott T. Gaynor (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a behavior analytic third-wave behavioral therapy that emphasizes psychological flexibility. The ACT model includes six core processes: Present Moment, Acceptance, Defusion, Self as Context, Committed Action, and Values. The efficacy of the ACT model has been studied in a broad range of populations including both clinical and non-clinical populations. Studies now are beginning to look at the effectiveness of individual processes in ACT. In this symposium, the presenters will apply these core processes to a variety of clinical difficulties. The papers comprising the symposium include: a study assessing the relationship between experiential avoidance and suicidal behavior in a university sample; a randomized controlled trial comparing cognitive defusion to a wait-list control for depressed college students; a study looking at the relationship between antisocial traits and psychological flexibility among former prisoners and those without a history of incarceration; and a correlational study of college undergraduates linking experiential avoidance to schizotypal personality traits.
The Permanent Solution: Suicidal Behavior and Experiential Avoidance
RACHAEL C. HOWARD (The University of Mississippi), Stephanie L. Nassar (University of Mississippi), Lindsay Martin (University of Mississippi), Regan M. Slater (University of Mississippi), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Mississippi), Kate Kellum (The University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)
Abstract: College is a time of many transitions, a time of self-realization, and it can also be a time of intense sorrow. Life changes such as leaving a familiar home environment and freedom from parental supervision may provide individualization as well as a shock. Society places great emphasis on living well and individuals will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing an unspoken pain. Expressions of pain are displayed in many different forms: physical injury to the body, drinking to the point of intoxication, unrelenting intrusive thoughts, and extreme fear of a real or perceived experience that could hurt physically or emotionally. Individuals experiencing periods of intense and unrelenting psychological difficulties may even look to suicidal behavior as a solution to end all pain. While pain expressions may take on many forms, these behaviors have a common function of avoiding or escaping hurtful experiences. Participants (N = 300) are college students at a southeastern US university. The current study examines the relationship between experiential avoidance and suicidal behavior.
Cognitive Defusion to Treat College Students with Low Self-Esteem
Marchion Hinton (Western Michigan University), James R Mellor (Western Michigan University), SCOTT T. GAYNOR (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: As the ACT literature continues to produce evidence of efficacy and effectiveness for a broad range of populations, research is beginning to explore the role of individual components within the larger treatment package. The ACT model suggests that cognitive defusion is a core component. Cognitive defusion attempts to increase awareness of and change the relationship to thoughts without changing the content or frequency of those thoughts. In the present study, twenty-two college students (73% female) reporting low self-esteem and general distress (one SD from the mean on both measures) were randomly assigned to examine the efficacy of three sessions of cognitive defusion (n = 10) against a wait-list control (n = 12). The defusion protocol emphasized vocalizing strategies and the contents on cards exercise. Overall, the data suggested that cognitive defusion is better than no treatment. Those receiving cognitive defusion reported significant improvements in self-esteem, depressive symptomatology, general distress, negative thinking, and experiential avoidance. These findings join others in suggesting that cognitive defusion appears to be an active component of ACT.
Antisocial Traits, Psychological Flexibility, and Incarceration
DIANA VANDEKREEKE (Illinois Institute of Technology), Patricia Bach (Illinois Institute of Technology)
Abstract: Antisocial behavior is costly to society. It is estimated that more than two thirds of prisoners meet criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder. However, it is also not uncommon to see persons with antisocial traits avoid criminal behavior and function effectively in society. To date, treatment and prevention efforts aimed at reducing antisocial behavior have been minimally effective; more information needs to be learned about the relationship between antisocial traits and behaviors. This study was designed to explore the relationship between antisocial traits, psychological flexibility, and incarceration among former prisoners and those without a history of incarceration. A total of 100 participants will complete the study and data collection is ongoing. We expect to show that increased psychological flexibility is associated with less likelihood of incarceration and increased quality of life whether the subject is high or low on antisocial traits. The results will assist in treatment development of interventions aimed at reducing antisocial behavior and its associated costs.
Oddly Avoiding or Avoiding Oddity?: Avoidance on the Schizotypal Spectrum
NIKKI CHRISTINE HERNANDEZ (University of North Texas), Amy Murrell (University of North Texas), Craig S Neumann (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Symptoms of Schizotypal Personality Disorder (SPD) have been described in accordance with a three-factor model including cognitive-perceptual distortions (ideas of reference and paranoid ideation), interpersonal difficulties (poorly developed relationships), and disorganized behavior (thought disorder and bizarre behavior). As a result, individuals with these symptoms are often characterized as eccentric and isolate themselves from others, despite the desire to obtain close relationships. Similarly, experiential avoidance (EA) occurs when an individual is unwilling to acknowledge private events that may cause discomfort and take steps to avoid coming into contact with those events. The current research posed questions about the relationship between EA and schizotypal traits, specifically hypothesizing that the relationship factor would be related to EA. Data will be presented from a correlational study of college undergraduates linking EA to schizotypal personality traits. Results indicated that EA was moderately correlated with schizotypal traits including cognitive-perceptual (r =.42), interpersonal (.44) and disorganized traits (r =.43). The implication of these results will be presented and discussed.



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