Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Effectiveness of an Acceptance and Commitment Intervention for Work Stress

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William O'Brien, PhD (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Margaret Brooks, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Robert Carels, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Steve Jex, PhD (Committee Chair)


Work stress is a large-scale problem that is associated with many negative physical, psychological and work related outcomes. Cognitive behavioral interventions for work stress have received the most empirical support for reducing symptoms associated with work stress, but such interventions do not always result in sustained improvements across time. A new approach to work stress based on acceptance and commitment therapy has recently gained preliminary support in the UK.

The present study was conducted in order to examine the effectiveness of an acceptance and commitment therapeutic approach to work stress in the US among traditionally high stress occupations: workers who serve those with intellectual disabilities and teachers. Forty-five employees from three worksites in Midwest Ohio were assigned to either two, three hour intervention sessions or a waitlist control group. Participants completed measures one week before and immediately following the intervention. Results demonstrated a marginally significant reduction in psychological distress among intervention participants relative to the waitlist control group. However, waitlist control participants reported significantly less perceived job demands and marginally less burnout at post-treatment. Change in levels of psychological flexibility was marginally predictive of reduced psychological distress among intervention participants, confirming past research studies identifying psychological flexibility as an important predictor of positive outcomes. Overall, results demonstrated partial support for the effectiveness of an ACT based intervention for work stress. Possible reasons for nonsignificant findings and suggestions for future research studies are discussed.