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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #550
CE Offered: BACB
Productivity and Well-Being in University Settings: Psychological Flexibility Assessment and Training to Help Faculty and Students
Monday, May 30, 2022
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
Meeting Level 2; Room 205A
Area: EDC/VRB; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Chynna Brianne Frizell (Missouri State University)
Discussant: Thomas G. Szabo (Touro University)
CE Instructor: Dana Paliliunas, Ph.D.

University students and faculty experience distress that professors and faculty colleagues are the first to observe. Typically, it is the failure to keep up with assignments that alerts others to these emotional and well-being issues. In some cases, professors and supervisors can assess and then address these matters with psychological flexibility instructional methods such as Acceptance and Commitment Training. Other times, counselors may need to be asked to conduct further assessments and more intensive interventions. In this symposium, four talks related to university well-being and productivity will be presented. The first talk addresses the relationship between burnout, self-compassion, psychological flexibility, and work-related quality of life for university faculty. The second examines the utility of a values-based self-management assessment and intervention strategy for supporting college students. The third presentation is an evaluation of an ABA ACT functional analysis and intervention strategy in a college setting. The fourth paper involves the same ABA ACT functional analysis and intervention approach using a procedure to control for sensitivity, specificity, discriminant, and predictive utility of the functional analysis in a graduate school context. Dr. Thomas Szabo will then discuss the development of functional assessment and psychological flexibility interventions in ABA and the four papers presented herein.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): ACT, College education, Psychological flexibility, Wellbeing
Target Audience:

Behavior analysts, students, and faculty

Learning Objectives: (1) describe the relationship between psychological flexibility and burnout in faculty; (2) discuss values-based self management in university settings; (3) describe the use of functional analysis within ACT intervention for college students
Evaluating the Relationship Between Burnout, Self-Compassion, Psychological Flexibility, and Work-Related Quality of Life for Faculty in Higher Education
AYLA SCHMICK (Missouri Southern State University)
Abstract: Within the past year there has been a significant uptick in mental/emotional distress and burnout among college students. These increases warrant a strong response by institutional leaders to assist faculty as they are considered the “gatekeepers” of student mental health. While many studies have evaluated student burnout, very few studies have evaluated those factors for the individuals who are there to support them, the higher education faculty. Due to this, the current study examined the relationship between burnout, self-compassion, psychological flexibility, and work-related quality of life in 50 faculty members of higher education institutions. Moderate to strong correlations were found between the Teacher Burnout Scale (TBS), Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (SCS-SF), Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II (AAQ-II), and Work-Related Quality of Life (WRQoL). Results of this study suggest that participants with higher scores of burnout showed lower levels of self-compassion, psychological flexibility, and work-related quality of life. Implications, limitations, and future research will be discussed.
Using Values-Based Self-Management to Support College Students' Wellbeing: Assessment, Intervention, and Social Validity
DANA PALILIUNAS (Missouri State University)
Abstract: The college experience can include significant levels of stress as well as mental health and behavioral challenges for many students, and college counseling centers are experiencing increased demand for services, creating an opportunity for innovative and flexible approaches to support the wellbeing of college students (Center for Collegiate Mental Health, 2016). Behavior analytic approaches to intervention such as self-management, self-control, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) have demonstrated utility in supporting adaptive behavior among numerous populations, including students in college settings and a synthesis of these approaches have utility in meeting the demand for services. Values-Based Self-Management (VBSM) is one such approach that is designed to support students in developing self-management skills and psychological flexibility while monitoring progress toward a behavioral goal. Evaluations of a remote-delivered VBSM intervention for undergraduate students were conducted to examine the effect of the VBSM approach on participants’ self-monitored progress toward a behavioral goal and various measures of self-reported psychological wellbeing. Approaches to assessment of both overt and covert behavior change, ACT-based self-management intervention, and the evaluation of social validity among participants will be discussed, highlighting the importance of including measures of change in participants’ private verbal behavior in addition to overt behavior change.

Brief Acceptance and Commitment Training Functional Analysis With University Students: Addressing Interfering Thoughts and Making Progress

LARISA SHEPERD (Endicott College), Jennifer J. McComas (University of Minnesota), Thomas G. Szabo (Touro University)

During their academic careers, university students face numerous challenges and sometimes those challenges interfere with students' progress in their degree programs. Nationally, the four and six year graduation rates for undergraduates are 33% and 58%, respectively. Only 57% of Ph.D. students complete their degree. Direct contingencies, including grades, may be necessary but are sometimes insufficient to maintain the response patterns necessary to complete course and degree requirements. When direct contingencies are ineffective or insufficient to address interfering behavior, an effective approach might be to identify the influence of private behavior (e.g., thoughts) and match intervention to the nature of the identified influence. This investigation aimed to examine the effects of a systematic descriptive assessment followed by a functional analysis of private events and matched intervention on the interfering behavior of two PhD students and one undergraduate student. The process and results of the functional analyses of verbal behavior and intervention effects will be presented and directions for future research will be discussed.


Brief Acceptance and Commitment Training Functional Analysis for Graduate Students: Controlling for Sensitivity, Specificity, Discriminant, and Predictive Utility

JENNIFER J. MCCOMAS (University of Minnesota), Thomas G. Szabo (Touro University), Yukie Kurumiya (The Chicago School of Professional Psychology)

An assessment is sensitive when it captures positive instances of a moderator accurately and specific if it accurately captures negative instances of a moderator. The former is associated with predictive validity and the latter with discriminant validity. In the current study, we evaluated these attributes of the Brief ACT FA with graduate students who were failing a class despite numerous interventions. Descriptive assessment was conducted, and the results were tested using a brief experimental ACT FA. In the Brief ACT FA, experimenters contrived verbal abolishing and establishing operations in an alternating treatment design. The Brief ACT FA was conducted using text messaging to rule out the possibility of inadvertently cuing participants to respond in characteristic ways based on the tone and cadence of the experimenter’s voice. Also during the Brief ACT FA, both hypothesized and non-hypothesized ACT repertoires were evaluated for their respective levels of influence. In all three participants, hypothesized ACT variables were verified and non-hypothesized variables eliminated. The ACT intervention that followed, based exclusively on the variables identified in the FA, resulted in successful behavior changes. Results will be discussed regarding specificity, sensitivity, discriminant, and predictive validity of the Brief ACT FA and future studied will be suggested.




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