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.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #426
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Relational Frame Theory, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: What Are the Connections?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Lucerne, Swissotel
Area: TPC; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Dermot Barnes-Holmes, Ph.D.
Chair: Yvonne Barnes-Holmes (Ghent University)
DERMOT BARNES-HOLMES (Ghent University, Belgium; National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Yvonne Barnes-Holmes (Ghent University)
Dr. Dermot Barnes-Holmes graduated from the University of Ulster in 1985 with a B.Sc. in Psychology and in 1990 with a D.Phil. in behavior analysis. His first tenured position was in the Department of Applied Psychology at University College Cork, where he founded and led the Behavior Analysis and Cognitive Science unit. In 1999 he accepted the foundation professorship in psychology and head-of-department position at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. In 2015 he accepted a life-time senior professorship at Ghent University in Belgium. Dr. Barnes-Holmes is known internationally for the analysis of human language and cognition through the development of Relational Frame Theory with Steven C. Hayes, and its application in various psychological settings. He was the world's most prolific author in the experimental analysis of human behavior between the years 1980 and 1999. He was awarded the Don Hake Translational Research Award in 2012 by the American Psychological Association, is a past president and fellow of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, is a recipient of the Quad-L Lecture Award from the University of New Mexico and most recently became an Odysseus laureate when he received an Odysseus Type 1 award from the Flemish Science Foundation in Belgium.

Relational frame theory (RFT) is sometimes said to provide a foundation in basic behavior analysis for acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and ACT is said to be part of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) writ large. This lecture will consider the potential role that RFT could play in grounding ACT, and perhaps some CBT concepts, in more functionally based theorizing. The first part of the lecture will argue that the so-called “middle-level terms” employed in ACT, such as acceptance, defusion, values, and self-as-context, may be seen as lacking the (functional) analytic precision that many concepts in traditional CBT also lack. This lack of functional precision is entirely understandable for CBT, given its explicitly mentalistic origins, but it could be seen as placing a question mark over the functional-analytic “credentials” of ACT. The second part of the lecture considers the argument that RFT can “rescue” ACT from its apparent lack of functional precision, and concludes that it cannot do so without additional substantive conceptual development of the theory itself. A brief outline of how this conceptual development might be realized is presented in the form of a multi-dimensional, multi-level (MDML) framework for analyzing the dynamics of relational framing as generalized relational operant behaviors.

Target Audience:

Individuals with an interest in conceptual issues pertaining to translational research, particularly in the domains of clinical behavior analysis, and human language and cognition.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) articulate why relatively functionally imprecise "middle-level" terms are employed in acceptance and commitment therapy; (2) understand some of the similarities and differences between middle-level terms and mentalistic concepts employed in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy; (3) appreciate the need for relational frame theory to develop conceptually in order to provide increased functional-analytic precision in some of the concepts employed by both ACT and CBT.



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