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.


46th Annual Convention; Online; 2020

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #346
Scaling Up Behavioral Therapy for Public Health: The Case of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Stopping Cigarette Smoking
Monday, May 25, 2020
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Area: CSS
Chair: Thomas G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology)
CE Instructor: Thomas G. Szabo, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: JONATHAN BRICKER (University of Washington)

Despite the rise of nicotine vaping and its recent public scares, cigarette smoking remains the single most preventable cause of premature death in the USA and for many other parts of the world. Smoking kills over 7 million people a year. Smoking fits well with the principles of applied behavior analysis because it is a highly repetitious behavior maintained by its consequences. Early applications of functional analysis and conditioning led to promising treatments for helping people stop smoking but as group and individual face-to-face therapies they were hampered high intensity, cost, and low scalability. Fortunately, the rise of digital technologies and telehealth has a recreated the ability for provide behavioral therapies for smoking cessation on a broad scale at lower cost. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a contemporary form of clinical behavior analysis based on Skinner’s philosophy of Radical Behaviorism, is becoming a prominent therapeutic approach to digital and telehealth delivered smoking cessation. ACT teaches functional analysis, present moment awareness, and values-based living to help people cope with urges and stay committed to living smoke free. I will show how my research team translates ACT principles into concrete and highly accessible treatment programs on platforms including telephone-delivered behaviorial coaching, websites, smartphone apps, and chatbots for smoking cessation. This translational research is an iterative process of expert clinician input, user testing, and rapid prototyping. Once developed, we test each of these delivery platforms in both small and large-scale randomized controlled trials comparing the ACT program with standard cognitive behavioral programs. I will share the latest results of these trials and how our interventions have already reached over 50,000 people. I will close with highlighting the future directions of our research, including applications to treatment of obesity.

Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts; licensed psychologists; graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) describe how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is scaled up as a broad reaching public health technology intervention; (2) apply certain ACT and contextual behavioral principles for tobacco cessation and other addictive behaviors; (3) discuss latest research findings on ACT for tobacco cessation, and their impact on Washington State-level tobacco policy.
JONATHAN BRICKER (University of Washington)

Dr. Jonathan Bricker’s passion is to scale up behavioral therapies into high reach public health intervention programs.  He is an internationally recognized scientific leader in the behavioral therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He focuses ACT on skills for self-control, particularly for quitting smoking and other addictions. His programs have been developed and tested on many platforms, including apps, chatbots, websites, and telephone coaching that reach thousands of people daily. Rather than encouraging people to ignore cravings, his approach to ACT is to focus on becoming aware of triggers for cravings and choosing not to act on them. His smoking cessation programs have achieved success rates that are double that of other programs—cutting cigarette use by 75 percent. Dr. Bricker has over 85 scientific publication and has received $14 million in US Government NIH grants, predominantly for WebQuit, iCanQuit and the TALK study of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for smoking cessation. His research and expert testimony was instrumental in Washington State passing a law to increase the minimum age of tobacco sales to 21.

He founded and leads the Health And Behavioral Innovations in Technology lab (which goes by the apt acronym: HABIT), which is part of the Public Health Sciences Division, at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Bricker’s expertise in his field has led him to his current role of senior editor of the journal, Addiction. His TEDx talk, “The Secret to Self-Control” has been viewed nearly 5 million times, and has been translated into ten languages.




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