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.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #445
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Classroom: Promoting Adaptive Coping and Adjustment Through Psychological Flexibility and Academic Engagement
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
9:00 AM–10:20 AM
4C-4 (Convention Center)
Area: CBM; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Kelly Ho (University of Mississippi)
Discussant: David R. Perkins (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

This symposium addresses issues pertaining to college student stress and adjustment, with a particular emphasis on applications involving acceptance and commitment therapy. The first segment describes prevalence data regarding the extent to which undergraduate students utilize various coping strategies. Given the widespread use of coping strategies that tend to be associated with poorer outcomes, interventions targeting increased use of acceptance-based strategies are warranted in this population. The second segment delineates a specific intervention designed to foster adaptive coping and increased academic engagement among undergraduate students. The intervention involved promoting psychological flexibility through acceptance- and values-based classroom exercises. The third segment describes a study evaluating the feasibility and impact of including a journaling component within a freshmen seminar. The journaling component was designed to increase psychological flexibility in at-risk students enrolled in a first-time freshman college skills course. Following these presentations, a discussant will further integrate the topics by leading a discussion pertaining to the role of psychological flexibility interventions in fostering college student adjustment.


Coping With Stress: Strategies Employed by College Students

LINDSAY SCHNETZER (University of Mississippi), Maureen Kathleen Flynn (University of Mississippi), Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi)

Literature suggests that ways of coping tend to be associated with differential outcomes. That is, strategies such as cognitive reappraisal and acceptance are associated with more positive outcomes such as greater quality of life (e.g., Gross & John, 2003; Ruiz, 2010), whereas thought suppression, emotional suppression, and avoidance are associated with greater psychological difficulties (e.g., Rassin, Merckelbach, & Muris, 2000; Ruiz, 2010). While a number of studies have examined how coping strategies correlate with other variables, to date, no basic prevalence data have been reported. The purpose of this study was to obtain prevalence data regarding the extent to which college students utilize various coping strategies. Participants accessed an online survey database, which prompted them to write a brief description of a recent stressful event, then complete a survey indicating whether or not they used certain coping strategies to deal with this stressor. Results indicate widespread use of cognitive reappraisal and avoidance. Suppression strategies were also frequently endorsed. Further, respondents indicated relatively less frequent use of acceptance techniques. Given the connection between avoidance/suppression strategies and maladaptive outcomes, training college students in acceptance-based coping techniques may be warranted.


Stress in the Modern World: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based Approach to Dealing With College Stressors

NADIA LUCAS (University of Mississippi), Solomon Kurz (University of Mississippi), Maureen Kathleen Flynn (University of Mississippi), Lindsay Schnetzer (University of Mississippi), Regan M. Slater (University of Mississippi), Kelly G. Wilson (University of Mississippi), Kate Kellum (University of Mississippi)

The most recent data on graduation rates published by the National Center for Education Statistics suggest that 22.5 % of students who enrolled at four year public institutions were no longer enrolled in any school and had not completed a degree after six years. These data further suggest that risk factors such as number of dependents, students dependency status, job status, parents highest degree attained, and familys income status are related to degree attainment (NCES, 2011). Given the stressors that may prevent students from obtaining a degree, a seminar, based on the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), was designed to help students to learn about the effects of stress as well as ways of coping with stress, with specific focus on education. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a third wave behavioral therapy that focuses on the development of psychological flexibility. Several studies have shown that it is an effective intervention in both clinical and non-clinical populations (Hayes et al., 2006). The current study looks at the effects of an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy-based class curriculum on students ability to cope with stress and engage in behaviors associated with academic success. Preliminary data has been collected regarding target behaviors related to academic success, which include class attendance, timeliness, asking or answering questions, preparation, and utilizing outside resources.


Moving on Up: The Psychological Inflexibility of First Generation and Low Income Freshmen

DANIELLE E. LANDRY (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emmie Hebert (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

College is a period of life during which psychological adjustment is particularly important, not only for academic success, but for long-term psychological health. This is often addressed through first-time freshman courses that target behaviors like study skills, time management, money management, campus resources, and student involvement. First-generation or low-income students may need additional support to foster college adjustment. Recent studies have provided preliminary evidence that intervening on psychological flexibility can improve academic achievement for at-risk students (Ely, 2004; Slater, Sandoz, Kellum, & Wilson, 2007) and college adjustment for typical upperclassmen (Sandoz et al., 2011). The current study evaluated the feasibility and impact of including a journaling component that targets psychological flexibility in a first-time freshman college skills course for first-generation or low-income college students. Baseline data suggest that the participants exhibit lower levels of psychological flexibility when compared with typical students. Those participating in the journaling are expected to demonstrate increased psychological flexibility and improved college adjustment over the course of the semester.




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