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An Experimental Analysis of Acceptance vs. Change Skills for Emotions in Adults with Stress- and Trauma-related Problems
AdvisorFruzzetti, Alan E.
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Although the vast majority of adults have experienced a traumatic event, only a minority meets criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while many still develop clinically significant distress and impaired functioning. Yet, current PTSD-focused interventions have left a gap for individuals who do not recover after treatment and/or who present with other forms of distress. Emotion regulation is a possible transdiagnostic mechanism of change that may promote and maintain some of the varied problems related to trauma-exposure. Because large-scale treatment trails are expensive and inefficient means to identify mechanisms of change and related, potentially useful treatment components, the present study utilized an analog treatment design (skill psychoeducation) in a randomized experimental design to identify potential mediators (acceptance vs. change of emotions) of change. Subjects were randomized to receive 1 of 3 brief web-based trainings: 1) skill training on accepting emotions, 2) skill training on changing emotions, or 3) stress psychoeducation (control). Participants completed measures of emotion regulation, mindfulness, and affect intensity 24 hours pre- and immediately post-training. Results showed that participants in all conditions demonstrated significant decreases in emotion regulation problems over time; yet, these improvements did not vary by condition. Participants in the Change condition with higher PTSD symptoms were significantly more likely to have greater increases in positive affect compared to those with low PTSD symptoms. Although the three conditions did not show different outcomes, the significant changes in measures related to emotion regulation highlight that treatment components specific to emotion regulation may contribute to treatment development and suggest further research in clinical settings.