Steven C. Hayes

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Steven C. Hayes (born August 12, 1948) [1] is an American clinical psychologist and Nevada Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Psychology, where he is a faculty member in their Ph.D. program in behavior analysis, and coined the term clinical behavior analysis . He is known for devising a behavior analysis of human language and cognition called relational frame theory, and its clinical application to various psychological difficulties, such as anxiety. Hayes also developed a widely used and evidence-based procedure often used in counseling called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which relies heavily on counterconditioning techniques, such as mindfulness (a private behavior in radical behaviorism), and positive reinforcement.



Hayes has been President of Division 25 of the American Psychological Association, of the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology, the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (now known as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies), and the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. He was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the American Psychological Society (now known as the Association for Psychological Science), which he helped form.

Hayes' work is somewhat controversial, particularly with his coined term "relational frame theory" to describe stimulus equivalence research in relation to an elaborate form of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior (also referred to as verbal operants). [1]

An author of 38 books and 550 articles, in 1992 he was listed by the Institute for Scientific Information as the 30th "highest impact" psychologist in the world during 1986-1990 based on the citation impact of his writings during that period.

According to Time columnist John Cloud, "Steven Hayes is at the top of his field. A past president of the distinguished Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, he has written or co-written some 300 peer-reviewed articles and 27 books. Few psychologists are so well published". [1]

Selected works

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Relational frame theory (RFT) is a psychological theory of human language. It was developed originally by Steven C. Hayes of University of Nevada, Reno and has been extended in research, notably by Dermot Barnes-Holmes and colleagues of Ghent University.

Acceptance and commitment therapy Type of psychotherapy that uses acceptance and other strategies to increase psychological flexibility

Acceptance and commitment therapy is a form of psychotherapy and a branch of clinical behavior analysis. It is an empirically-based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies mixed in different ways with commitment and behavior-change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility. The approach was originally called comprehensive distancing. Steven C. Hayes developed acceptance and commitment therapy in 1982 in order to create a mixed approach which integrates both covert conditioning and behavior therapy. There are a variety of protocols for ACT, depending on the target behavior or setting. For example, in behavioral health areas a brief version of ACT is called focused acceptance and commitment therapy (FACT).

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is an approach to psychotherapy that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods in collaboration with mindfulness meditative practices and similar psychological strategies. It was originally created to be a relapse-prevention treatment for individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). A focus on MDD and cognitive processes distinguishes MBCT from other mindfulness-based therapies. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), for example, is a more generalized program that also utilizes the practice of mindfulness. MBSR is a group-intervention program, like MBCT, that uses mindfulness to help improve the life of individuals with chronic clinical ailments and high-stress lives.

Buddhism and psychology

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Functional analytic psychotherapy (FAP) is a psychotherapeutic approach based on clinical behavior analysis (CBA) that focuses on the therapeutic relationship as a means to maximize client change. Specifically, FAP suggests that in-session contingent responding to client target behaviors leads to significant therapeutic improvements.

Functional contextualism is a modern philosophy of science rooted in philosophical pragmatism and contextualism. It is most actively developed in behavioral science in general and the field of behavior analysis and contextual behavioral science in particular. Functional contextualism serves as the basis of a theory of language known as relational frame theory and its most prominent application, acceptance and commitment therapy. It is an extension and contextualistic interpretation of B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism first delineated by Steven C. Hayes which emphasizes the importance of predicting and influencing psychological events with precision, scope, and depth, by focusing on manipulable variables in their context.

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Dermot Barnes-Holmes was Foundation Professor at the Department of Psychology at National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is known for an analysis of human language and cognition through the development of Relational Frame Theory with Steven C. Hayes, and its application in various psychological settings. He was the world's most prolific author in the experimental analysis of human behaviour between the years 1980 and 1999. He was awarded the Don Hake Basic/Applied Research Award at the 2012 American Psychological Association Conference in Orlando, Florida. He is a past president and fellow of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, is a recipient of the Quad-L Lecture Award from the University of New Mexico and most recently became an Odysseus laureate of the Flemish Science Foundation and a fellow of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. In 2015 he accepted a life-time senior professorship at Ghent University in Belgium. He originally conceptualized and programmed the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP).

Clinical behavior analysis is the clinical application of behavior analysis (ABA). CBA represents a movement in behavior therapy away from methodological behaviorism and back toward radical behaviorism and the use of functional analytic models of verbal behavior—particularly, relational frame theory (RFT).

Experiential avoidance (EA) has been broadly defined as attempts to avoid thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations, and other internal experiences—even when doing so creates harm in the long-run. The process of EA is thought to be maintained through negative reinforcement—that is, short-term relief of discomfort is achieved through avoidance, thereby increasing the likelihood that the behavior will persist. Importantly, the current conceptualization of EA suggests that it is not negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are problematic, but how one responds to them that can cause difficulties. In particular, a habitual and persistent unwillingness to experience uncomfortable thoughts and feelings is thought to be linked to a wide range of problems.

Association for Contextual Behavioral Science Professional association for ACT, RFT, and behavior analysis

The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) is a worldwide nonprofit professional membership organization associated with acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and relational frame theory (RFT) among other topics. The term "contextual behavioral science" refers to the application of functional contextualism to human behavior, including contextual forms of applied behavior analysis, cognitive behavioral therapy, and evolution science. In the applied area Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is perhaps the best known wing of contextual behavioral science, and is an emphasis of ACBS, along with other types of contextual CBT, and efforts in education, organizational behavior, and other areas. ACT is considered an empirically validated treatment by the American Psychological Association, with the status of "Modest Research Support" in depression and "Strong Research Support" in chronic pain, with several others specific areas such as psychosis and work site stress currently under review. ACT is also listed as evidence-based by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the United States federal government which has examined randomized trials for ACT in the areas of psychosis, work site stress, and obsessive compulsive disorder, including depression outcomes. In the basic area, Relational Frame Theory is a research program in language and cognition that is considered part of contextual behavioral science, and is a focus of ACBS. Unlike the better known behavioral approach proposed by B.F. Skinner in his book Verbal Behavior, experimental RFT research has emerged in a number of areas traditionally thought to be beyond behavioral perspectives, such as grammar, metaphor, perspective taking, implicit cognition and reasoning.

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Robert L. Leahy American psychologist and author

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Self-as-context, one of the core principles in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), is the concept that people are not the content of their thoughts or feelings, but rather the consciousness experiencing said thoughts and feelings. Self-as-context is distinguished from self-as-content, defined in ACT as the social scripts people maintain about who they are and how they operate in the world.


  1. 1 2 3 Cloud, John (13 February 2006). "The Third Wave of Therapy". Time Magazine. Retrieved 16 July 2011.