Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with Selective Optimization with Compensation

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William Hayes O'Brien (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Yiwei Chen (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Amy L. Morgan (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Catherine Stein (Committee Member)


Older adulthood is associated with a number of losses (e.g., declines in physical health) and gains (e.g., higher level of life satisfaction). Selective Optimization with Compensation (SOC) is a meta-model of aging that takes these gains and losses into account and has the goal of explaining the processes through which older adults can age successfully. Selection is the process by which certain functional domains are chosen over others. Optimization is the process by which gains are maximized. Compensation is the process by which losses are minimized. This model has been empirically supported over three decades of research, yet there are still gaps within this literature, such as intervention research and research on how and why older adults are using these processes. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a third-wave cognitive-behavioral therapy based on a functional contextual approach to human behavior and behavior change. It has been empirically supported and has a similar underlying philosophy to the SOC model. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationships between these two theories. An online survey was used to collect data on 87 participants. In the current study, ACT variables of psychology flexibility, mindfulness, and cognitive fusion were significantly correlated with SOC utilization in the expected directions. These ACT variables and SOC utilization were also correlated with age-related wellbeing outcomes in the expected directions. Mindfulness mediated the relationship between SOC utilization and geriatric morale as well as the relationship between perceived risk of contracting COVID-19 and geriatric morale. Cognitive fusion also mediated the relationship between perceived risk and geriatric morale. Overall, the results support the integration of these two models to increase wellbeing in the older adult population.