Response to a graphic film as a function of levels of experiential avoidance: implications for the application of act in the treatment of PTSD

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Barner, Stacy L.
Zettle, Robert D.
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The current study utilized a laboratory analogue to psychological trauma to examine the link between levels of experiential avoidance and the development and maintenance of negative emotional states. Specifically, participants were exposed to a graphic film displaying the aftermath of several automobile accidents that occurred as a consequence of drinking and driving in an attempt to induce intrusive thought patterns and related distress analogous to that seen in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After viewing the film, participants were asked to report the development of PTSD-like symptoms, including subjective distress, state anxiety, and intrusive thoughts and images. Distress levels were measured before exposure to the film; immediately following exposure to the film; immediately following exposure to an attention-placebo distraction task, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment protocol, or an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) treatment protocol; and 4 days later in order to assess distress levels as a function of participant levels of experiential avoidance. While participants experienced an increase in distress and anxiety following exposure to the film as well as a decrease in these variables following exposure to all implemented intervention conditions, no significant differences were noted on these measures as a function of participant levels of experiential avoidance, intervention condition, or interaction between these two variables. Additionally, no significant differences were noted on measures of intrusive thought patterns as a function of intervention condition or interaction between experiential avoidance and intervention condition. However, two regression analyses indicated a significant effect for experiential avoidance on the number of intrusive thoughts postfilm. Several limitations within the current study that may account for these unexpected findings are outlined and the implications for further related investigations are discussed.

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Thesis(Ph.D.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology
Wichita State University
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