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 #173
Cross-Theoretical Meanderings: Contextual Behavioral Science for Understanding and Enhancing Nonbehavioral Therapeutic Approaches
Sunday, May 27, 2012
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
610 (Convention Center)
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Samantha K. Marks (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Thomas G. Szabo (University of Nevada, Reno)

Contextual behavioral science is an emerging approach to behavioral science and practice that emphasizes a functional understanding of historically and situationally embedded actions. The pragmatic and a-ontological nature of contextual behavioral science makes it useful in understanding a number of other approaches. One concept that has been particularly important in contextual psychology has been psychological flexibility. Recently proposed as a fundamental aspect of psychological health, psychological flexibility refers to an individuals ability to 1) recognize and adapt to changing situational demands, 2) reconfigure mental resources to make use of appropriate behavioral repertoires, 3) shift perspectives, and 4) choose behaviors that reconcile competing desires, needs and life domains (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010). The conceptual papers in this symposium will consider the application of psychological flexibility and related principles from the contextual behavioral science tradition for understanding and enhancing non-behavioral therapeutic approaches including object relational approaches, equine facilitated psychotherapy, and therapies focusing on difficulties with sexual orientation.


Charting a Course: Contextual Behavioral Science for Understanding, Preventing, and Addressing Difficulties With Sexual Orientation

SAMANTHA K. MARKS (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Despite widespread efforts to de-pathologize and de-stigmatize homosexuality over thirty-five years ago, the quality of care available to individuals seeking psychotherapy for issues related to sexual orientation still varies widely. Issues like sexual identity, affiliation, discrimination, and stigma remain a unique challenge for many clinicians. This is largely due to a lack of empirical literature on the subject. Continued scientific progress in this area may depend on the development of a sound analysis of issues related to sexual orientation. This conceptual paper 1) reviews the literature on treatment for psychological difficulties associated with sexual orientation and 2) explores current trends and guidelines for therapy related to sexual orientation through the perspective of contextual behavioral science. In particular, psychological flexibility is offered as an aspect of psychological health that may be particularly important in reducing the suffering associated with the conflicts around sexual orientation. Implications for future research and treatment development are discussed.


Horse is a Horse of Course. . . Unless It's a Therapist: Equine Facilitated Contextual Behavioral Therapy

LISA WEGENER (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

Equine facilitated psychotherapy is a rapidly growing alternative method for psychological rehabilitation that is garnering preliminary positive outcome data. Although there are common technologies in equine facilitated psychotherapy, there is no agreed-upon theoretical framework that posits specific psychological processes that account for these outcomes. This hampers scientific progress in this area and continued treatment development. Psychological flexibility, a dimension of behavior emphasized in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, may provide a working model for the behavioral changes targeted in equine facilitated psychotherapy. This paper will explore how the equine-assisted session can create a unique and effective context for practicing present moment focus, experiential acceptance, cognitive defusion, perspective-taking and commitment to valued choices. For one, the equine assistant may be particularly sensitive to instances of inflexibility, providing ongoing and immediate feedback to the client. In addition, navigating the human-horse relationship provides a number of experiential metaphors for committed action towards personal values. Practical and conceptual challenges to integration will also be discussed.

Where Perspectives Meet: Psychological Flexibility as Function of Object Relational Health
JOSEPH SALANDE (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: This paper explores Object Relations-based psychotherapy within in the context of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) construct of psychological flexibility. Object Relations Theory is a Psychodynamic approach that conceptualizes personality in terms of internal representations of self and others. It posits that early relationships such as that between child and primary caregiver, in conjunction with genetically-based factors, create an internalized set of mental representations of self and others. These internal representations, and the quality of their relations, have a powerful role in determining behavior, especially in the context of external relations with self and others. In other words, Object Relations are human relations. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy facilitates the acceptance of cognitions that are related to negative affective experiences. A central goal of this therapy is an increase in psychological flexibility; and thus the ability to have a thought or experience without becoming entangled with its previous negative affective experience. Although terminological challenges abound, there may be potential for a useful dialogue between the two approaches. From an acceptance-based perspective, the therapeutic changes involved in Object Relations-based therapy may reformulate the verbal relations generated by early experience. Thus, Object Relations-based therapy may alter environment-behavior relations and enhance psychological flexibility.



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