Piloting the Use of Acceptance, Cognitive Defusion, and Values, in Reducing Experiential Avoidance and its Consequences Among Youth Rejected by Peers
Peer rejection (PR) can be damaging to cognitive and emotional well being and lead to risky behavioral consequences (e.g., violence, increased peer pressure susceptibility), particularly for adolescents (Sebastian et al., 2010; Williams, 2007). Interventions designed to minimize the impact of and repair damage related to PR in youth have been somewhat successful (e.g., Mikami et al., 2005), although the need for further research into potentially pliable mechanisms underlying adolescent peer relationships remains. One suggested mediating factor is experiential avoidance (EA), which is the major target of acceptance- and mindfulness-based interventions such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT; see Hayes, 2004 for a review). The present study built on the recommendations of Biglan et al. (2008) and Theodore-Oklota et al. (2014) in designing and implementing a prevention program aimed at reducing EA of PR experiences, with the hope of minimizing cognitive, emotional and behavioral consequences of PR. For this initial pilot, selected ACT components (acceptance, cognitive defusion, and values) were presented in age-appropriate form to six participants over five individual intervention sessions. The program was successful in reducing EA and cognitive fusion and/or improving mindfulness and acceptance for most participants, with some exceptions. Additionally, results showed a decrease in existing symptomatology for several participants (e.g., anger, depression, poor self-concept, overall stress). However, value congruence was not significantly improved for any of the six completers. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical implications and recommendations for further research, particularly in terms of how the existing pilot intervention could be altered and augmented to maximize effectiveness.