Evaluations of self-referential thoughts and their association with components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


Hollie Duff, Andreas Larsson, Louise McHugh


Limited research has been carried out with respect to relationships among how individuals relate to thoughts and levels of cognitive fusion, experiential avoidance, psychological distress and mindfulness. Recent third-wave cognitive behavioral therapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) use techniques that focus less on changing the content of thoughts, and place more emphasis on changing the client's relationship to thoughts. For this reason, it is important to consider initial relations between the client's thoughts and the factors that ACT focuses on. The current study investigated associations among several ACT-consistent factors and how they relate to evaluations of positive and negative self-relevant thoughts. Seventy-nine participants completed ACT-consistent psychological measures and thought evaluation measures. The results indicated that ACT-consistent variables were associated with thought relations (i.e., believability, discomfort and willingness) rather than evaluations of content (i.e., negativity). Positive associations were observed among greater levels of psychological distress and psychological inflexibility (i.e., greater experiential avoidance and cognitive fusion). Mediation analysis identified believability of negative thoughts as a partially mediating factor in the predictive ability of mindfulness, experiential avoidance and cognitive fusion on psychological distress, with stronger negative thought believability positively associated with greater levels of psychological distress. The results are discussed in terms of the clinical implications of the relations observed.

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