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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Work Stress: Variation in Perceived Group Process and Outcomes

Authors: William H. O'Brien, Erin Bannon, M.A., Heather McCarren, Eileen Delaney


Employees commonly encounter unpredictable and unavoidable work related stressors. Exposure to such stressors can evoke negative appraisals and associated adverse mental, physical, and behavioral responses. Because Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) emphasizes acceptance of unavoidable stressors and diffusion from negative appraisals, it may be particularly beneficial for work stress. Forty-five workers were randomly assigned to an ACT intervention for work stress (n = 21) or a waitlist control group (n = 24). The intervention consisted of two 3-hour sessions spaced one week apart. An examination of group process and outcomes was conducted using the Revised Sessions Rating Scale. Results indicated that the ACT participants reported that they perceived the intervention to be supportive, task focused, and without adverse therapist behaviors (e.g., feelings of being criticized or discounted). Additionally, the second session (values clarification and commitment to action) was perceived to be more supportive and task focused than the first session (mindfulness, defusion). Process ratings were correlated with outcomes. Results indicated that perceptions of therapy supportiveness and task focus were associated with reduced psychological distress and improved perceived physical health.

Keywords: Work stress, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, therapy process.

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