ACT/RFT Reader's Update (Winter, 2007)

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to the first issue of the ACT /RFT Reader's Update, an electronic newsletter provided for your information and perusal. This online newsletter provides summaries of recent, ACT and RFT articles (or related articles) published in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, citations for the latest books, book chapters, and unpublished dissertations will be listed. This will be an ongoing project, and new article summaries will be distributed via email every 4 months. You can identify these email summaries by the subject title "ACT/RFT Readers Update".

Our main aim with this update is to keep the ACT/RFT community informed. We hope to include information that is relevant, scientifically sound, and of interest in the ACT/RFT community. Our purpose is not to recreate the abstract of these articles, but to provide a broader summary of the article. However, are goal is to keep the "busy" reader in mind, and therefore, we will work to keep the summaries brief. Additionally, we had to start somewhere, so we are only including summaries of some of the most recent articles.....and our next issue will include more from 2007 (such as ACT and diabetes and social anxiety disorder). We will conduct regular searches, however, if we missed your publication (from mid-2007 until now), please let us know.

** If you are a graduate student working on an ACT/RFT study and would like to have us include your dissertation or thesis citation in this update, please send us an email backchannel.

**If you have published an editorial and you would like us to include that citation, please send us an email back channel.

We hope you will find our e-mail updates of interest and value. If you have questions, please contact Robyn Walser, or Maggie Chartier,

Our reviewers include:

Robyn Walser, PhD
Christi Ulmer, PhD
Maggie Chartier, MPH, MS
Ian Stewart, PhD
Miguel Rodríguez Valverde, PhD

This issue contains 8 summaries. Please find references at end of summary and references listing at end of document:


Acceptance and pain in children....

The literature supporting the use of cognitive-behavioral interventions for chronic pain in adults is fairly extensive. Nevertheless, considerably less empirical support is available for psychological approaches to pain in children. Even more limited is the literature on psychological approaches to idiopathic (of unknown cause) chronic pain in youths. Acceptance-based approaches have been implemented into behavioral pain treatments in adults, and have been found to be associated with better outcomes. The authors of a recent study investigated the impact of an ACT intervention with an exposure component for increased functioning and school attendance in 14 adolescents experiencing idiopathic chronic pain. The intervention was administered in individual therapy sessions tailored to the individual patient, but generally followed a format that included education, ACT, and exposure. Parents were also seen in separate sessions to provide guidance on an intervention-consistent parental coaching role versus a caretaking role. The number of sessions varied across patients. Post-intervention data revealed large effect sizes for improvements in the primary outcomes (functioning and school attendance) in addition to the secondary outcomes (pain intensity, pain interference, and catastrophizing). Interestingly, pain intensity and interference decreased following this intervention despite the absence of intervention components targeting pain reduction. Limitations of the study included lack of a control group, variability in session number and therapeutic skills, and absence of a measure of the proposed mechanism of action (psychological flexibility). Despite the limitations, this pilot study contributes to a nascent area of research on the treatment of chronic pain in youths, and suggests a potential role for ACT-based interventions in this population.

Read the Article:

Wicksell, R. K., Melin, L., & Olsson, G. L. (2007). Exposure and acceptance in the rehabilitation of adolescents with idiopathic chronic pain - A pilot study. European Journal of Pain, 11(3), 267-274.

Hair pulling and experiential avoidance...

Trichotillomania (TTM) is estimated to be present in up to 3.4% of the population and is associated with significant psychosocial difficulties. Previous research has identified several specific cognitions and affective states that are associated with the tendency to engage in hair pulling. A recent internet-based study investigated the potential relevance of the stance of the TTM sufferer towards aversive thoughts and emotions in hair pulling severity. More than 700 individuals reporting a diagnosis of TTM completed an anonymous online survey assessing: DSM-IV TTM criteria; hair pulling severity, urge, behavior and consequences; shame; self-perceived appearance; and fear of negative evaluation; and experiential avoidance. In spite of the waning criticism of internet-based research, the sample characteristics suggest that is was similar to those of studies completed in clinical settings, and the reported internal consistencies of the employed measures suggested that participants provided meaningful responses. As found in previous research, hair pulling behavior was associated with greater negative cognitions. However, in the current study, these associations were either significantly reduced or eliminated when experiential avoidance was introduced as a mediator. Under the premise that aversive cognitions are functionally related to hair pulling behavior, clinicians commonly target thought content using a cognitive restructuring approach to TTM. However, the findings of the current study suggest that targeting avoidance may result in a greater degree of behavior change. Replication of this study is needed in a clinical sample and should include longitudinal data to explore causal pathways plus a larger battery of private events should be investigated. Despite the need for additional study, the findings of the current study implicate experiential avoidance as a potentially critical factor in the understanding and treatment of TTM.

Read the Article:

Norberg, M. M., Wtterneck, C. T., Woods, D. W., & Conelea, C. A. (2007). Experiential avoidance as a mediator of relationships between cognitions and hair-pulling severity. Behavior Modification, 31, 367-381.

Preliminary findings suggest that ACT is useful for coping with psychological distress related to breast cancer.

A recent article in the Spanish journal of psychooncology (Psicooncología) suggests that psychological problems resulting from diagnosis, treatment, and possible sequels of breast cancer, can be analysed as a form of an experiential avoidance disorder. The authors explored the application of an acceptance-based psychological intervention to these problems in a Spanish sample, comparing it with a more traditional intervention based on cognitive-control. Twelve women (ages 42 to 50) that had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer took part. Half of them were randomly assigned to treatment with a brief adaptation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This acceptance-based protocol focused on the clarification of personal values, the detection and acceptance of psychological barriers to acting towards those values, and on the continued practice of cognitive defusion through experiential exercises and metaphors. The other six women were treated with a brief adaptation of the official cognitive-behavioral program of the Spanish Association Against Cancer. This protocol focused on analysing the relationships among disease-related thoughts, feelings, and actions, and in the modification of those cognitions and emotions through several strategies (e.g. identification and management of automatic dysfunctional emotional reactions, emotional ventilation techniques, breathing and relaxation techniques for anxiety control, etc.). The general aim was to promote a sense of personal control over problematic private events, and to encourage a positive coping style. Overt behavioral components (exposure and activity planning) were explicitly excluded from this protocol. Both interventions were administered in eight sessions (two initial individual sessions, five group sessions, and a final individual session), with pre- and post -treatment assessment, and up to 12-month follow-ups. Post-treatment effects were similar for both conditions, but after one year, ACT was significantly more effective, with improvements in anxiety and depression scores, quality of life scores, and affected valued life areas. Despite the key limitation in terms of generalizability due to the small sample size, the results are promising and these findings point to ACT as a potentially effective treatment for disease-related psychological distress in long-term medical conditions.

Read the Original Article in Spanish:

Páez, M. B., Luciano, C., & Gutiérrez, O. (2007). Tratamiento psicológico para el afrontamiento del cáncer de mama. Estudio comparativo entre estrategias de aceptación y de control cognitivo. Psicooncología, 4, 75-95. [Psychological treatment for coping with breast cancer. A comparative study of acceptance and cognitive-control strategies].

Can brief training for new therapists in ACT and CBT be effective?

Many psychotherapy effectiveness trials use experts in the therapies they are testing. In this Finnish study, the authors wanted to first reduce this professional bias common in many head-to-head trials, by using graduate-level therapists. They explored level of training, regardless of therapeutic intervention, required to achieve significant psychological effects in treated individuals. Therapists were taught both CBT and ACT, through a combination of lectures, reading, and case supervision. Each therapist delivered a CBT treatment and an ACT treatment. The only criteria for entry into the study was a desire for individual therapy, thus a range of diagnoses were represented in the study population of 28. The techniques used within each model were based on a functional analysis case formulation model, and as such there was some overlap in techniques. For example, both interventions set treatment goals, used behavioral activation and exposure; and the treatments were problem, not syndrome focused. Overall, ACT showed significantly larger effect sizes at post and follow-up for symptom improvement. Both groups showed improvements on symptom reduction, but the ACT group was "virtually indistinguishable" from community norms. CBT showed more rapid improvement in self-confidence than ACT, and ACT improved acceptance of private experience more than CBT. When controlling for self-confidence, acceptance remained a significant predictor of improved outcome on the SCL-90 at both post and follow-up assessment. There were no differences between the two on client satisfaction or client willingness to recommend the therapy. There were also no differences post treatment in the therapist comfort with therapy or how much they felt they had helped their clients, although therapists reported more discomfort and confusion about learning and delivering ACT. So the answer is, yes. Brief training in either ACT or CBT with novice therapists produced moderately good psychological effects. The authors emphasize in their discussion of the limitations that this was not an effectiveness trail comparing the two therapies, but rather an effectiveness trial focusing on the issues of brief training and competency.

Read the Article:

Lappalainen, R., Lehtonen, T., & Skarp, E. (2007). The impact of CBT and ACT models using psychology trainee therapists: A preliminary controlled effectiveness trial. Behavior Modification, 31(4), 488-511.

Do we need to challenge thoughts in CBT?

The title says it all. In this review of CBT component analyses, the authors investigate the 'three anomalies of CBT' put forth by Steve Hayes in a previous paper. These are that component analyses do not show added value of cognitive interventions; that there is often early rapid improvement in CBT prior to cognitive intervention; and that changes in cognitive mediators (thoughts/beliefs) don't seem to precede symptom changes. The authors found 13 component analysis for Cognitive Therapy (CT) in the treatment of depression and anxiety, published since 1980 in English. There were no significant differences between conditions that targeted cognitive process only or primarily and comparison groups that often included behavioral activation (BA). In many cases, BA was found to be as effective as CT and/or Automatic Thought (AT) interventions. To quote the authors, "the case at issue is not that CT performed poorly, but that BA performed so well." They discussed preliminary findings from a long-term large-scale project that has been presented at conferences (but not yet published) in which BA performed as well as antidepressant medication, and that both were superior to CT. For anxiety disorders, cognitive interventions have not been found to be more effective than disorder-specific exposure techniques. In addressing the second anomaly the authors concluded that that early responding has insufficient evidence to support CT. And as for the third, it appears that there is insufficient evidence to support cognitive mediation as a mechanism of change in therapy. The authors conclude that, almost without exception, among component analysis studies, there was no difference in effectiveness between the behavioral and cognitive components of CBT. The cognitive interventions appeared to add no additional value to behavioral interventions. The authors called CT theorists and researchers to task, requesting further investigation of the fundamental tenets of CT therapy.

Read the Article:

Longmore, R. J., & Worrell, M. (2007). Do we need to challenge thoughts in cognitive behavior therapy? Clinical Psychology Review, 27(2),173-187.


Training more-than/less-than relations can facilitate derived comparative relations in young children ...

One critical assumption in RFT is that relating events is operant behavior. This is a challenge to demonstrate empirically, since relating is theorized to develop early in life. Examining relatively complex relations among older, more manageable subjects is one means of avoiding certain difficulties in this analysis. This study was conducted with four normally functioning females between four and five years old. The design of the study involved a multiple baseline across participants in groups of two. Stimuli were paper slips displaying arbitrary pictures. Sessions were conducted between 1 and 3 times weekly, each lasting between 40 and 60 minutes. Participants required between 2 and 6 months to complete the study. All participants displayed deficiencies in more-than/less-than relating before training and demonstrated derived performances after sufficient training. Two of the four participants required non-arbitrary training among differing stacks of pennies before demonstrating criterion responding in training with arbitrary stimuli. In summary, these results provide evidence supporting the contention that relating events is an operant class, and that a repertoire of relating among non-arbitrary events may be a prerequisite for arbitrarily applicable derived relational responding.

Read the Article (available for download on the ACBS website):

Berens, N. M., & Hayes, S. C. (2007). Arbitrarily applicable comparative relations: Experimental evidence for a relational operant. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 45-71.


Combinatorial entailment in young children is facilitated by multiple
exemplar training...

RFT is built on the basic tenet that relating events is a generalized operant. In other words, the ability to derive relations among arbitrary stimuli develops from explicit training with multiple exemplars in early life. Consistent with this assumption, a former study found that derived symmetrical relations among the majority of a sample of 4-5 year old children were contingent upon explicit training with multiple exemplars. The current work contains two studies, each incorporating a multiple baseline design. Participants were two female and two male children between the ages of 4:6 and 4:10 years/months. The first study examined the repertoire for symmetrical relations using the procedures of the former study. Participants received conditional discrimination training for an action (e.g., clapping, waving) given an object (e.g., doll, truck). Subsequently they were tested for symmetrical relations between the action and the object. All children successfully derived symmetrical relations without encountering exemplar training. The second study examined for equivalence relations, building upon the training provided in the first study. A new set of actions (e.g., touching forehead, touching shoulder) were trained in respect to the objects. Subsequently the children were tested for equivalence relations between the actions trained in the first study and the new actions. Three of the four children required exemplar training for equivalence before demonstrating derived equivalence. These results support the developmental trajectory hypothesized in RFT, and suggest a means of remediation for delayed or absent relational abilities.

Read the Article:

Gomez, S., Lopez, F., Martin, C. B., Barnes-Holmes, Y., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2007). Exemplar training and a derived transformation of functions in accordance with symmetry and equivalence. Psychological Record, 57, 273-294.

RFT and Perspective-taking in children with high-functioning autistic
spectrum disorder .

The current research involves using a test of perspective taking based on the Relational Frame Theory to (i) compare normally developing children and autistic children and (ii) demonstrate how perspective taking skills may be trained when they are deficient. According to RFT, language essentially involves relating things in accordance with particular learned patterns referred to as relational frames. Perspective taking is one specific pattern of relating or 'relational framing' in which the relating depends on the perspective of the person who is doing the relating. According to RFT, there are three core relational patterns or frames involved in perspective taking: I-YOU, HERE-THERE and NOW-THEN. This article reports on two experiments focusing on perspective taking in normal and autistic subjects. In the first experiment they use an RFT-based test of perspective taking to compare two groups of 9 children each. One of these groups is composed of normally developing children while the other is composed of high functioning autistic children. Results from this first experiment were that (i) there was a significant difference between the means scores for the normal and autistic groups of children on both the clinical tests; (ii) across both groups, most errors in the perspective taking test were made on reversed relations and there was a significant difference between performance on the simple and reversed level tasks; (iii) the two groups - normally developing and autistic - differed significantly as regards to performance on the reversed relations tasks but not as regards to performance on either of other two task types; (iv) there was a correlation across all subjects between performance on the NOW-THEN reversed relations task and Daily Living Skills scores. The researchers suggest that despite a small sample size, the results provide support for the RFT account of perspective taking as deictic relational responding in that autistic children did perform more poorly than the normally developing children in the relational perspective-taking tasks provided. They performed significantly more poorly in the reversed relational tasks than in the simple tasks. They did not perform significantly more poorly in the double reversed relational tasks than in the simple tasks. However, as the researchers point out, this may be because these tasks may be answered correctly without necessarily responding appropriately in accordance with deictic relations. In the second experiment, the researchers used the RFT tasks employed in Experiment 1 combined with appropriate feedback (cartoon animations for correct responses) to train up perspective taking ability in two of the children from the normally developing group from the first experiment. The results showed that the relational pattern involved in perspective taking could indeed be trained up as RFT would predict. They suggest that this implies that the RFT account of perspective taking is a useful one, and that RFT-based perspective taking tasks such as those used in the current experiments may be used in future work to train up perspective taking in autistic children.

Read the Article:

Rehfeldt, R.A., Dillen, J.E., & Ziomek, M.M.(2007) Assessing Relational Learning Deficits in Perspective-Taking in Children with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. Psychological Record, 57(10), 23-47.


Gregg, J. A., Callaghan, G. M., & Hayes, S. C. (2007). Diabetes lifestyle book. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Follette, V. M., & Pistorello, J. (2007). Finding life beyond trauma. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Hayes, S. C., Bond, F. W., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Austin, J. (2007). Acceptance and Mindfulness at Work: Applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy And Relational Frame Theory to Organizational Behavior Management. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Lejeune, C. (2007). The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Luoma, J. B., Hayes, S. C., & Walser, R. D. (2007). Learning ACT: An acceptance and commitment therapy skills-training manual for therapists. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Walser, R., & Westrup, D. (2007). Acceptance & Commitment Therapy for the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Practitioner's Guide to Using Mindfulness & Acceptance Strategies. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Zettle, R. D. (2007). ACT for depression: A clinician's guide to using acceptance and commitment therapy in treating depression. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Press.

Also: Check out the ACT in ACTion DVD set. Available at


Pierson, H., & Hayes, S. C. (2007). Using acceptance and commitment therapy to empower the therapeutic relationship. In P. Gilbert & R. L. Leahy (Eds.), The therapeutic relationship in the cognitive behavioral psychotherapies (pp. 205-228). New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Twohig, M. P., Pierson, H. M., & Hayes, S. C. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. In N. Kazantzis & L. L'Abate (Eds.), Handbook of homework assignments in psychotherapy: Research, practice, prevention (pp. 113-132).New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media.


Pellowe, M. E. (2007). Acceptance and commitment therapy as a treatment for dysphoria. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, Vol 67(9-B), 5418.

Braekkan, K. C. (2007). An acceptance and commitment therapy intervention for combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: Preliminary outcomes of a controlled group comparison. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, Vol 67(12-B), 7365.


Curran, J., & Houghton, S. (2007). Moving beyond mechanism. Mental Health Practice, 10(8), 20-23.

Blackledge, J. T. (2007). Disrupting verbal processes: Cognitive defusion in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and other Mindfulness-based Psychotherapies. The Psychological Record, 57(4).