Tinnitus in Context : A Contemporary Contextual Behavioral Approach

Sammanfattning: Tinnitus is the experience of sounds in the ears without any external auditory source and is a common, debilitating, chronic symptom for which we have yet to develop sufficiently efficacious interventions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has evolved over the last 20 years to become the most empirically supported treatment for treating the adverse effects of tinnitus. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of individuals do not benefit from CBT-based treatments. In addition, the theoretical underpinnings of the CBT-model are poorly developed, the relative efficacy of isolated procedures has not yet been demonstrated, and the mechanisms of therapeutic change are largely unknown. These significant limitations preclude scientific progression and, as a consequence, leave many individuals with tinnitus suffering.To address some of these issues, a contextual multi-method, principle-focused inductive scientific strategy, based on pragmatic philosophy, was employed in the present thesis project. The overarching aim of the thesis was to explore the utility of a functional dimensional process in tinnitus: Experiential avoidance—experiential openness/acceptance (EA). EA is defined as the inclination to avoid or alter the frequency, duration, or intensity of unwanted internal sensations, including thoughts, feelings or physical sensations. The thesis is based on experimental work (Study II, VI), process and mediation studies (Study I, III, V), and on randomized controlled trials (Study III, IV).Three main sets of findings supported the utility of EA in tinnitus. First, an acceptance-based treatment (i.e.,Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT) was found to be effective in controlled trials. Study III demonstrated that face-to-face ACT was more effective than a wait-list control and a habituation-based sound therapy. Study IV showed that internet-delivered ACT was more effective than an active control condition (internet-discussion forum) and equally effective as an established internet-delivered CBT treatment. Second, processes research (Study I, III, V) showed that key postulated processes of change were linked to the specific technology of ACT and that these changes in processes were associated with therapeutic outcomes. Specifically, Study V found evidence to that decreases in suppression of thoughts and feelings over the course of treatment were uniquely associated with therapeutic gains in ACT as compared with CBT. Third, experimental manipulations of experiential avoidance and acceptance processes provided support to the underlying dimension (Study II, VI). That is, Study II, employing an experimental manipulation, found that controlling background sounds were associated with reduced cognitive efficiency and increased tinnitus interference over repeated experimental trials. In addition, in normal hearing participants, experimentally induced mindfulness counteracted reduced persistence in a mentally challenging task in the presence of a tinnitus-like sound stemming from initial effortful suppression of the same sound (Study VI). It is concluded that a principle-, contextual-focused approach to treatment development may represent an efficient strategy for scientific progression in the field of psychological treatments of tinnitus severity.

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