Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Behavior Analysis and Therapy

First Advisor

Rehfeldt, Ruth Anne

Abstract

The following study aims to understand the effects Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, has on individuals who have experienced discomfort through exposure to aversive stimuli. Experiencing discomfort is a natural part of human life. Each person has their own class of responses to respond to discomfort. A typical response may include avoiding an object, person, or situation that had made the person uncomfortable in the past. Batten, Follette, and Aban (2001) found that women who experienced childhood sexual abuse and scored high in experiential avoidance where more likely to engage in high risk sexual behaviors. Avoiding discomfort can have serious repercussions. ACT has been a proven therapy to treat anxiety, gambling, PTSD, eating disorders among other disorders. Previous studies show the effectiveness of ACT on treating discomfort (Cohrane, Barnes-Holmes, & Barnes-Holmes, 2008; Hayes, Bissett, Korn, Zettle, Rosenfarb, Cooper, & Grundt, 1999; Luciano, et al., 2010). This study extends the findings and further supports the utility of ACT to treat discomfort through a laboratory study. This study exposes participants to “disgusting” stimuli to evoke disgust and discomfort. A brief ACT session is administered to half the participants which is compared to a control task which includes a distraction/avoidance task. Findings from this study suggest the utility of ACT to increase tolerance to discomfort.

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