Application of an ACT based brief protocol for treatment of problematic worries in university students

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APA Citation: 

Montesinos, F., & Luciano, M. C. (2005). Application of an ACT based brief protocol for treatment of problematic worries in university students. In F. Montesinos, Significados del cancer y procedimientos clinicos para promover la aceptacion [Meanings of cancer and clinical procedures for promoting acceptance]. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Almería (Spain).

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 

An ACT-based brief procedure which was centered on values clarification and exposure showed its effectiveness when applied to common fears and worries. Many studies have showed ineffectiveness of thought suppression (Clark et al., 1991; Wegner et al., 1987; Rassin et al., 2000). Ineffectiveness is especially evident in the long run (Beevers et al, 1999; Wenzlaff, 1993; Wegner, 1994). Nevertheless, there is a deep-seated belief in general population that this could be a useful way of coping chronic stressful situations, and thought control and suppression have been found between the most used coping strategies (Rippere, 1977). This study is intended to bring evidence of usefulness of acceptance-based strategies for coping common and topographically diverse private events that can function as barriers for valued actions. Through to study, we also explored the usefulness of some specific components taken from ACT and the possibilities of this approach with a view to its utility in the treatment of fears usually found in clinical populations as cancer patients.

Twenty university students, aged 18 to 26, with sub-clinical intensity fears, worries and obsessions took part in an experimental design. Most of these worries were to be with academic results, human relations, one’s/others’ health, violence/accidents, fail/mistakes, future and loneliness. Subjects were individually treated in a University-based psychological clinic. They were randomly assigned to two different conditions (experimental and control). Subjects in experimental condition passed through a one-session protocol including promoting barriers in situ, introducing acceptance and cognitive defusing exercise. This experiential exercise was adapted from “Practicing awareness of your experience” (Hayes, Strosahl & Wilson, 1999, p.179), in which worry thoughts were viewed written as thoughts. Subjects assigned to control condition did not receive any intervention. Measures coming from questionnaires (Leyton Obsessional Inventory, Acceptance and Action Questionnaire AAQ) and custom-made scales were taken one week before intervention and 1, 2 and 6 weeks later. Results showed that intervention resulted effective for most of the subjects assigned to experimental group. This intervention produced an effect on interference of fears and worries, compared to control condition. The most important effect was found in follow-up, which reached statistically significance. Decreases in presence and intensity of worries and fears also happened, although were not aims. Changes in experiential avoidance (AAQ) were also statistically significant 1 and 6 weeks after intervention in experimental condition compared to control condition. Hence, one week after intervention, it was possible to appreciate changes in the function of thoughts related to problematic worries and drops in avoidance levels. Changes reached discriminative functions (“I don’t stop anymore, I go on studying”) and actions towards values (“I’m doing it, I feel more confident”, “I’m doing it, even when I know something could happen, it doesn’t stop me so much”). Therefore, a simple and brief procedure was found to be effective in altering avoidance behaviors related to fears and worries. The same procedure resulted useful to treat worries and fears with different topographies, not at all pursuing, as ACT philosophy suggests, removing o modifying worries contents.