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.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #390
CE Offered: BACB
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis: Investigations of Experiential Avoidance in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Monday, May 28, 2018
8:00 AM–8:50 AM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Grand Hall D
Area: AUT/PCH; Domain: Translational
Chair: Elizabeth Meshes (The Chicago School for Professional Psychology, Los Angeles; CARD)
CE Instructor: Elizabeth Meshes, M.S.

Ample research has demonstrated the effectiveness of behavior analytic procedures for producing substantial improvements in relatively socially meaningful behaviors, for example, severe behaviors, social behavior, and the elementary verbal operants. Relatively little behavioral research has addressed complex human verbal behavior. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a contemporary behavior analytic approach to psychotherapy that is based on an analysis of relations between complex human verbal behavior and other socially relevant overt behaviors. Although ACT has primarily been applied by clinical psychologists, its basis is entirely behavior analytic and great potential exists for combining ACT with applied behavior analysis. This symposium brings together three presentations on ACT from a behavior analytic perspective. The first presentation, by Elizabeth Meshes, is a conceptual presentation that ties together the ACT literature and the behavior analytic literature on self-control versus impulsivity (aka delay discounting). The second presentation, by Jessica Hinman, describes a study that used an ACT approach to training self-perspective taking an evaluates collateral effects on physiological measures. The third presentation, by Sebastian Garcia-Zambrano, describes a study that employed a defusion approach to training flexible self-directed verbal behavior.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): ACT, Defusion, Delay Discounting, Perspective Taking
Target Audience:

Board certified behavior analysts working with individuals with autism with well developed verbal repertoires


Synthesizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Delay Discounting: Implications for Applied Behavior Analysis

ELIZABETH MESHES (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles; CARD), Jonathan J. Tarbox (University of Southern California; FirstSteps for Kids)

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) was originally developed as a behavioral approach to psychotherapy for treating disorders traditionally treated by clinical psychology, including substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. However, the functional analyses that form the foundation of ACT are equally applicable to anyone who has verbal behavior and rule-governed behavior that interacts with socially meaningful overt behavior. Most problems of behavior faced by typically developing adolescents and adults involve making difficult choices between smaller short term reinforcers (e.g., avoiding work) versus larger longer-term reinforcers (e.g., successful career). Delay discounting research has shown clearly that unfavorable delays and proportions of reinforcement determine that individuals will make less favorable behavioral choices. At the core of the ACT model is the attempt to transform the function of verbal behavior such that choosing the harder choice in the short term in order to access the larger reinforcer later is more probable. This presentation will present the radical behavioral conceptual analysis behind this process and discuss applicability across work with individuals with autism, parents of children with autism, and behavioral supervision of staff. Potential for using this analysis for extending applied behavior analysis into other important areas of applied work will also be discussed.


Acceptance and Commitment Training's Effect on Negative Thoughts: Changing the Verbal Self Statements and Physiological Responses of Adolescents and Young Adults With Autism

(Applied Research)
JESSICA M. HINMAN (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University)

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of using Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) with adolescents and young adults with autism to change the function of verbal statements made about the self while talking about a negative thought. Throughout the study, participants will wear an Empatica wristband measuring physiological responses. Participants will determine a negative thought they have about themselves and discuss why they believe the thought is true. Participants will then receive a version of ACT and be asked to talk about the same negative thought. Verbal statements about the self and physiological measures before and after ACT will be compared. Preliminary anecdotal results for three typically developing adults suggest that ACT was effective in increasing self-as-context statements and decreasing self-as-content and reason giving statements. Additionally, the physiological data show stabilization while discussing the negative thought after receiving ACT, suggesting that ACT can change the function of verbal statements and affect physiological responses. While little research has been done on using ACT with adolescents and young adults with autism, the preliminary and expected results of this study suggest a clinical utility of ACT to improve the way individuals with autism interact with their thoughts.


Effects of Defusion and Deictic Frames Interactions on the Development of Self-As-Context in Individuals With Autism

(Applied Research)
SEBASTIAN GARCIA-ZAMBRANO (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Ruth Anne Rehfeldt (Southern Illinois University)

The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of a defusion exercise in combination with perspective- taking interactions as a brief protocol based on the Relational Frame Theory. The protocol is designed to train deictic frames (I-YOU, HERE-THERE, AND NOW-THEN) in conjunction with an exercise of defusion focused on the regulation of verbal statements about the self. A pre-post design with control group is implemented to evaluate the effects of the protocol on the probability of occurrence of self-as-context and self-as-content statements. Adolescents with autism are selected and assigned to each group based on the frequency of self-as-content statements. After the assignment of the participants to each group, each participant is interviewed individually through a structured interview aimed at identifying deictic frames and negative statements. Then, participants in the treatment group receive the protocol of defusion and deictic frames individually, and participants in the control group receive a Behavioral Skills Training session on an individual basis. Finally, participants are interviewed individually through an interview based on the identification of deictic relationships and negative statements about the self. A preliminary result showed an increase of the probability of occurrence of the self-as-context statements after the implementation of the protocol.




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Modifed by Eddie Soh