An empirical investigation of the role of self, hierarchy, and distinction in a common act exercise

Foody, Mairéad and Barnes-Holmes, Yvonne and Barnes-Holmes, Dermot and Rai, Laura and Luciano, Carmen
The Psychological Record, 65(2): 231—243, 2015

Recent empirical studies have emerged within the acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) literature that demonstrate the utility for considering relational frame theory when designing and developing therapeutic interventions. The current study investigated distinction and hierarchical relations when targeted specifically in a self as context exercise. Participants were also exposed to a practice interval placed between two presentations of a distress-induction task, to determine potentially lasting impacts of the interventions. A second aspect of the research examined the extent to which a focus on the self (as opposed to focusing on a hypothetical object) played a role in the outcomes. We hypothesized that the self-based hierarchical relations intervention would be the most effective in terms of distress reduction (e.g., discomfort). This prediction was somewhat supported as statistical analysis demonstrated that both hierarchical conditions (self and object) showed superiority in terms of stress reduction compared to both distinction conditions. These results are discussed with regard to previous translational research between RFT and ACT.