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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #249
CE Offered: BACB
Interpersonal Functioning
Sunday, May 25, 2014
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
W179a (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Tracy Protti (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Scott T. Gaynor (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Scott T. Gaynor, Ph.D.

A thriving society encompasses a multitude of people who must communicate with one another in order to advance. To ensure improvement of the well being of a society, analyzing the functions associated with interpersonal relationships, maladaptive and adaptive, has significant value to researchers, educators, and practitioners alike. By assessing psychological flexibility and the context, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values as it relates to interpersonal functioning can lend to a better understanding of how improvement can be enacted within a society. The current symposium will offer different contexts in which psychological flexibility and interpersonal functioning can be evaluated. The first paper will focus on the maladaptive interpersonal functioning that results from an individual's high levels of loneliness as predicted by low social support, high psychological inflexibility, and low social skills. The second paper will cover the development and validity of a survey that assesses the connection between body image disturbance and its impact on interpersonal relationships. The third paper will discuss the contributions of psychological flexibility and empathy in the context therapist-training program evaluation. The fourth paper will discuss the convergence of three cognitive behavioral treatments to help treat chronic distress in patients.


Interpersonal Functioning: Flexible Relating and Loneliness

BRONWYN FREDERICK (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Interpersonal functioning is affected by one's environment, one's perception of one's environment, and how one copes with those perceptions. Loneliness, or the dissatisfaction with the quality or quantity of one's social groups, is associated with greater general distress and poorer self regard. College students are at a particular risk for loneliness and associated struggles because of sudden and persistent changes in social support. When a student does not adjust to the new social structure easily, they may feel a lack of integration with social networks. Psychological flexibility may offer a means of understanding how social isolation sometimes leads to loneliness. Greater levels of psychological flexibility are associated with greater levels of psychosocial functioning. The current study examines the relationships among psychological flexibility, perceived social support, social skills and loneliness in first year freshmen. These three variables will be assessed in first year during midterm and finals. Preliminary data suggest that social support, psychological flexibility, and social skills will interact to predict the level of loneliness students report. Perhaps social skills training and increases in psychological flexibility might improve a person's adaptability in social situations. Implications for flexibility-based interventions will be discussed.


When Birds of a Feather Don't Flock Together: Validation of the Body Image and Interpersonal Relationship Survey

EMILY SQUYRES (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Katie Thibeaux (Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group), Jessica Auzenne (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Glenn M. Callaghan (San Jose State University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Many experience dissatisfaction with the way their bodies look or the way their body works. For some however, this dissatisfaction comes to interfere with their lives across many domains. Body image disturbance involves inaccurate perceptions about one's body that prompt distressing thoughts and feelings. People who struggle with body image disturbance tend to place high importance on their perceptions about their body and the accompanying thoughts and feelings while actively attempting to avoid them. This sometimes involves restricting social interactions in an attempt to manage painful body experience, which contributes to additional psychological distress and interpersonal ineffectiveness. Although there are many measures assessing body image disturbance, none of these assess body image disturbance as it impacts interpersonal relationships. This study focused on the development and validation of The Body Image and Relational Distress Scale (BIRDS) with samples with and without body image disturbance. Preliminary evidence suggests that the BIRDS allows for reliable and valid assessment of the impact of body image on interpersonal relationships. Data also suggest positive relationships amongst body image disturbance, psychological distress and interpersonal difficulties. Utility of the BIRDS will be explored. Implications for family- and group-based treatments of body image disturbance will be discussed.


How Does your Therapist Grow: Psychological Flexibility and Relationship Skills in the Developing Clinical Behavior Analyst

TRACY PROTTI (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

The quality of the therapeutic relationship is indisputably critical in predicting the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Psychotherapies delivered from a behavior analytic perspective are no exception. The behavior analyst aims to create a context in which behavior change can occur. In clinical behavior analysis, much of that context is the relationship itself. This study explored some of the skills purported to be central to creating a therapeutic relationship in the context of evaluating a therapist training program. Participants were trainees in clinical behavior analysis who were undertaking their first field placement. Participants participated in a four and a half day training focusing on building the repertoire that is theoretically relevant to developing a therapeutic relationship. They completed an assessment of empathy, therapist beliefs, psychological flexibility, and relationship flexibility before and after the training. Then, participants began their field training. After nine weeks, participants completed the assessments again. Growth of the trainee repertoire was examined in terms of psychological flexibility, relationship flexibility, and empathy, and compared with trainee evaluations. Results suggest that psychological flexibility contributes to empathy, with inconsistent impact on therapist skills. Implications for training targets and methods will be discussed.


The Shaping Game: Contextual CBT Beyond the Treatment Package

SANDRA GEORGESCU (Chicago School of Professional Psychology )

In clinical behavior analysis, the therapist treatment is based on the functions of the problematic behavior; differing from the traditional approach based on the DSM or ICD that categorize problematic repertoires. From a functional perspective, persons who suffer from chronic distress seem to employ frequent problematic behaviors that have an avoidant function. Recently developed approaches to clinical behavior focus on directly addressing the avoidant repertoire and building skills to allow for contact with uncomfortable, and previously aversive, stimuli. This includes Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Functional Analytical Psychotherapy (FAP) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). These treatments aim to expand skills appropriate for varying contexts in which avoidant behavior is probable. By integrating these CBA approaches, treatment can better serve those suffering from chronic distress. As an example, we will consider the case of a 40-year-old white female with a history of sexual abuse and crisising behavior. Having had multiple hospitalizations for cutting and suicidal gestures, she requested outpatient treatment. DBT was applied based on skills deficit model targeting emotional dysregulation; ACT targeted experiential avoidance as functional class; and FAP provided the framework targeting in session moment to moment behaviors. Implications and challenges of this approach will be discussed




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