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A Comparison of Two Brief Interventions for Obsessional Thoughts: Exposure and Acceptance

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Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is the most effective psychological treatment for unwanted, intrusive thoughts associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, the procedures involved in ERP (i.e., exposure) are challenging, provoke high levels of anxiety, and may contribute to treatment refusal and dropout (Franklin & Foa, 1998). To address this problem, researchers have begun to evaluate alternative treatments for OCD, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Despite the value of both techniques, little is known about the differential impact of these strategies. This study examined the relative effects of a single session of ACT or exposure for obsessional thoughts. There were 56 undergraduate participants with obsessional thoughts randomly assigned to receive a brief intervention with the core components of exposure, ACT, or an expressive writing control condition. Obsessional symptoms and related process variables were assessed at baseline and at 1-week follow-up. There were no statistical differences in believability or acceptability of the 3 conditions. Significant reductions in obsessional severity, behavioral tests of distress and willingness to experience intrusive thoughts, and negative appraisals of intrusive thoughts occurred in all conditions, but no differences were found between these conditions. Furthermore, changes in dysfunctional beliefs, but not in willingness to experience intrusive thoughts, predicted changes in obsessional symptoms in both the ACT and exposure conditions.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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