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.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

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Symposium #449
CE Offered: BACB
Inside Stories: Building a Flexible Sense of Self in the Face of Trauma and Discrimination
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Texas Ballroom Salon B (Grand Hyatt)
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Danielle Moyer (University of North Texas)
Discussant: Thomas G. Szabo (Florida Institute of Technology)
CE Instructor: Thomas G. Szabo, Ph.D.
Abstract: One area of interest to clinical behavior analysts is fusion to a conceptualized sense of self, particularly when it leads to ineffective behavior. A conceptualized sense of self develops from a history of verbal interactions with ourselves (Roche, Barnes-Holmes, Stewart, & O’Hora, 2002). Through this history of interactions, people learn to relate to themselves in a variety of ways. This can lead to ineffective behavior when the content of these interactions begins to dominate people’s experiences (Twohig, 2012). Rigidity, or fusion, to the conceptualized self can be particularly detrimental when the content of a person’s identity surrounds very traumatic experiences (Bernsten & Rubin, 2007). Stigma and discrimination can also lead to especially rigid conceptualizations due to the ongoing verbal interactions that occur as a result of being a member of a particular group (Roche et al., 2002). This symposium includes four papers that will focus on experiences of the self in relation to trauma and discrimination. Specific areas of interest include betrayal, obesity, gender and sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Developing a sense of self and perspective taking through derived relational responding and interventions for building a more flexible sense of self will also be discussed.
Keyword(s): Discrimination, Self-as-context, Self-stigma, Trauma
The Ultimate Selfie: Flexible perspectives of the self following betrayal trauma exposure
MELISSA L. CONNALLY (University of North Texas), Teresa Hulsey (University of North Texas), Daniel Steinberg (University of North Texas), Danielle Moyer (University of North Texas), Aditi Sinha (NYU School of Medicine World Trade Center Health P), Amy Murrell (University of North Texas)
Abstract: Although high betrayal trauma is more closely associated with dissociation than is low betrayal trauma, more research is needed to identify the psychological mechanisms that influence identity disturbances (Freyd, Klest & Allard, 2005; Goldsmith, Freyd, & DePrince, 2012; Tang & Freyd, 2012). Dissociation may result in disruptions of conceptualizing the self (Freyd, 1996). Self-complexity, the ability to understand the self as various and distinct roles, buffers the negative impact of life stressors (Linville, 1985; 1987). From an RFT perspective, high self-complexity may be thought of as a form of psychological flexibility with respect to the conceptualized self. However, the relationships among the three forms of self (self-as-content, self-as-process, self-as-context; Hayes, 1995) and self-complexity have not been explored in relation to betrayal trauma. A sample of 548 undergraduate students completed online self-report measures on betrayal trauma, self-complexity, self-as-context and self-as-process. Results suggest that self-as-context more strongly predicts self-complexity than self-as-process, [f2 = .06 (R2 change = .06, β = .24, p < .001)] accounting for 8.9% of the variance in self-complexity scores. Implications regarding conceptualizing the self after betrayal trauma exposure, and contributions to self-complexity as a form of psychological flexibility in relation to betrayal trauma, will be discussed.
An Exploration of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-Related Self-Stigma Through the Lens of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
MAUREEN FLYNN (University of Texas - Pan American)
Abstract: Although acceptance of sexual and gender identity minorities is increasing in the United States, individuals in the LGBTQI community continue to experience negative attitudes from society. For example, only 60% of people in the United States believe society should accept homosexuality and 58% of LGBT individuals reported that they have been subject to slurs or jokes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Pew Research Center, 2013). LGBTQI individuals are exposed to such negative attitudes throughout their lives and some end up applying these attitudes towards themselves, which is often referred to as self-stigma or internalized homophobia. LGBTQI-related self-stigma has been shown to correlate negatively with social support, stability, and intimacy and positively with depression, suicidality, substance use, and risky sexual behaviors (e.g., Szymanski, Kashubeck-West, & Meyer, 2008; Meyer & Dean, 1998). This paper will examine LGBTQI-related self-stigma from the perspective of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), also known as the Psychological Flexibility Model. Additionally, the paper will discuss ACT’s approach to treating self-stigmatizing thoughts, which involves the acceptance and defusion of such thoughts and a focus on increasing values-based behaviors.
Obesity Stigma, Disordered Eating and Psychological Flexibility Amongst the Obese
EMILY SQUYRES (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Abstract: Psychological struggle seems to be an inherent part of the human experience. Unfortunately, the public attitude towards the obese focuses more on negative stereotypes (e.g., undisciplined, ugly, stupid, and lazy) than on the underlying psychological components that lie at the heart of the struggle. These negative stereotypes have an effect upon how the obese think about themselves and may lead to self-stigmatization, which in turn may interfere with a person’s attempt to gain control of their health and emotional well being. Many people who struggle with their weight are found to be very rigid in their thought processes regarding food. Perhaps it is not the content of food and body-related cognitions that is important, but the inflexibility with which they are held. The current study investigated the relationships among disordered eating behavior, perceived stigmatization, self-stigmatization and psychological flexibility among the obese using one- time questionnaires and ecological momentary assessment. Results suggest that psychological flexibility predicted self-stigma. Specifically, avoidance of weight-related distress predicted self-blame (p = .04) and using eating as an escape predicted a lack of self-acceptance (p = .04). Limitations to the study and implications for further research and application will also be discussed.
Discussing Discrimination: Cognitive fusion and perceived discrimination in the U.S. Hispanic population
STEPHANIE CALDAS (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), Matthieu Villatte (Practice Ground Evidence-Based Practice Institute)
Abstract: Hispanics living in United States are the target of discrimination and prejudice in the media, political legislation, and everyday life (Kohut et al., 2006). Considerable evidence shows that experiencing discrimination is significantly associated with poorer physical and psychological health (D'Anna et al., 2010). Hispanics born in the U.S. are more likely to perceive and internalize discrimination, and more prone to psychological problems compared to immigrant Hispanics (Cook et al., 2008). Internalization of discrimination can occur when the literal meaning of psychological content, or thoughts, becomes attached or fused with the self-concept. In other words, perceived discrimination and internalized discrimination are the result of verbal processes (Masuda et al., 2007). This study investigates relationships among cognitive fusion, perceived discrimination, and mental health. Based on survey responses of Hispanics living in the U.S. (n = 177), perceived discrimination and cognitive fusion were found to be independently associated with mental health (p<.001) supporting that generation Hispanics may be more prone to cognitive fusion with experiences of discrimination because of continued challenges in the development of their identity. In addition to the relationships between perceived discrimination, strength of ethnic identity, and its implications for understanding self-stigma and mental health are discussed.



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