Date of Award

8-2006

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Jeffrey E. Hecker

Second Committee Member

Geoffrey L. Thorpe

Third Committee Member

Sandra T. Sigmon

Abstract

Empirical investigations of psychological interventions designed to prevent common mental health conditions have yielded encouraging results. Prior to the current investigation, however, there had been no published studies of a prevention program specifically designed for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A twosession prevention workshop for GAD was developed based upon empiricallysupported cognitive-behavioral treatments for GAD. The workshop provided participants with instruction in the following topics: psychological models of anxiety and worry, cognitive distortions, cognitive therapy techniques, relaxation training, worry exposure, problem-solving and problem orientation. The brief preventative intervention was examined in college students determined to be at-risk for developing GAD where at-risk status was defined as engaging in a sub-clinical level of worry as measured by Perm State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) scores. It was hypothesized that there would be reductions in levels of self-reported symptoms of worry, depression, state anxiety, GAD, intolerance of uncertainty, and experiential avoidance, in addition to a lower incidence of GAD in participants completing the workshop compared to a no-intervention comparison group. It was further hypothesized that workshop satisfaction would predict outcome. Participants (N=78) were randomly assigned to either a Workshop or no-intervention Control condition and were assessed at baseline, one-month, six-months, and twelve-months postbaseline. Results indicate that Workshop participants demonstrated reductions in all variables of interest through one-month follow-up, with reductions in worry (the main feature of GAD) and intolerance of uncertainty maintained through twelve months post-intervention, relative to Control participants. Due to low base rates of GAD incidence and relatively small sample size, prevention of GAD is difficult to ascertain, although fewer Workshop participants developed clinically-significant GAD symptoms by twelve months post-intervention than did Control participants. While workshop satisfaction did not appear to directly influence participant outcome, participants reported general satisfaction with the intervention. Challenges associated with conducting prevention research are discussed. Overall, results suggest that prevention programs, such as the one used in this study, may be an appropriate format for disseminating preventative interventions for GAD. While the current study is an important contribution to the prevention literature, further research is necessary to explore the utility of implementing secondary prevention for GAD and mental health problems.

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