Acceptance and commitment therapy training and psychological flexibility for helping professionals
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This thesis is an exploration of two interconnected areas: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) training for helping professionals (HPs) and psychological flexibility in helping professionals. The ACT model holds that HPs need to be psychologically flexible (or, herein, flexible) in order to be effective ACT practitioners, and thus a primary goal of ACT training is to enhance participant flexibility. The first chapter is a systematic review of studies that have evaluated the effectiveness of ACT training. It focused on ACT training practices and outcomes related to knowledge, skills, and psychological flexibility in HPs. The results of this review suggested that ACT training can be effective in providing HPs from a range of occupational background with the necessary knowledge and competency to deliver ACT interventions. Furthermore, ACT training can increase HP flexibility. However, confidence in these findings is limited due to methodological weaknesses, particularly variability in ACT training practices, inconsistent use of available measures, a lack of psychometrically robust measures to assess ACT knowledge, and the absence of a flexibility measure designed for use with HP populations. Recommendations were made regarding future research needs in this area, including the development of a HP-specific measure of flexibility. The second chapter reports on the development and initial validation of a measure designed to assess flexibility in the specific context of professional helping, called the Mindful Healthcare Scale (MHS). The results of two studies employing two separates samples of HPs provided good preliminary evidence of the MHS’s factor structure and internal validity. The MHS was also found to converge in theoretically-consistent ways with other measures of flexibility and constructs related to the occupational functioning of HPs including burnout syndrome, self-compassion, and empathy. These findings suggest that the MHS may have considerable utility in relation to ACT training for HPs and may also advance our understanding of flexibility’s role in HP occupational well-being and functioning.