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An Investigation of Sequencing Effects in Combining Cognitive Questioning and Mindful Acceptance

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Cognitive-behavioral treatments assume that the mechanisms of change depend on the assessment and questioning of biased beliefs. In contrast, recent developments have emphasized mindful acceptance interventions, in which clients allow thoughts to come and go without questioning them. In order to discuss therapeutic efficacy difference in emotional disorders, we explored the possible normalizing effects of cognitive questioning and mindful acceptance on sympathetic reactivity aroused by recall tasks. We compared the effects of different sequencing of cognitive questioning and mindful acceptance on emotional distress in two groups in which questioning either preceded (group 1) or followed (group 2) acceptance. Thirty-five non-clinical individuals (21 males, 14 females) randomly allocated to either group 1 or 2 participated in the experimental tasks (unpleasant recall, cognitive questioning, and metacognitive acceptance). Sympathetic reactivity levels were measured using galvanic skin response. Results showed that acceptance reduced sympathetic reactivity when compared to questioning. The best sequence was that in which questioning preceded acceptance. By interpreting sympathetic reactivity as a measure of emotional distress and experimental tasks as models for therapeutic approaches, this experiment suggests that acceptance is better than questioning in reducing emotional distress especially when cognitive questioning is followed by mindful acceptance.

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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Rosita Borlimi.

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Borlimi, R., Benetka, G., Brighetti, G. et al. An Investigation of Sequencing Effects in Combining Cognitive Questioning and Mindful Acceptance. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther 37, 284–298 (2019).

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