Psychological methods of stress management

  • Created by: TEWalker
  • Created on: 04-03-15 12:52

Hardiness training

Kobasa argued that hardiness could be usefully turned into a stress management technique - teaching others to become more 'hardy' and thus manage stress better.

How can you teach hardiness?

The aim of hardniess training is to increase self confidence and sense of control so that individuals can more successfully navigate change.




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Stages in hardiness training

There are three stages in Hardiness training:

1. FOCUSING - The client is taught how to recognise the physiological signs of stress like muscle tension and increased heart rate, and also to identify the source of stress.

2. RELIVING STRESS ENCOUNTERS - The client relives what made them stressed and is helped to analyse the situation and the response they had to them. This gives the client an insight into their current coping strategies and how they might be more effective than they thought.

3. SELF-IMPROVEMENT - The insights gained can now be used to move forward and learn new techniques of dealing with stress. In particular, they are taught to focus on seeing stressors as challenges that they can take control of, rather than problems that they must give in to.

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Evaluation of hardiness training

Does it work? - Student support services at Utah Valley State college has offered hardniess training to their at-risk students. Hardniess training helps these students to stay in, and graduate from, school by mastering the many stresses they encounter while they work to develop themselves professionally and personally.

Practical application in sport - UK Olympic swimmers ensure that they are committed to the challenge of increased performance levels, and are able to control the stressful aspects of their daily lives that might otherwise interfere with their training. (Fletcher, 2005)

Problems with hardniess training - Must first address basic aspects of personality and learned habits of coping that are notoriously difficult to modify. It cannot, therefore, be seen as a rapid solution to stress management

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Stress Inoculation Therapy (SIT)

Meichenbaum (1985)

SIT is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy developed specifically to deal with (or think about)stress, as we cannot change the cause of the stressors. It is a method of changing an individual’s thinking patterns about themselves and their lives. The aim is to change their emotional responses (negative thinking) and their behaviour ideally before the individual becomes very anxious or depressed as a result of stress. SIT is different from other stress treatments because Meichenbaum suggested that an individual should develop a form of coping before the problem arises. He suggested that a person could inoculate themselves against the 'diease' of stress.

SIT is a three stage procedure carried out with the help of a therapist. It is based on the assumption that people experience stress because they interpret an event or situation in catastrophising ways and their internal dialogue (their thoughts) are negative. Positive thinking leads to more positive attitudes and feelings. These reduce the stress response and help us to cope better in the future.

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The three phases to Stress Inoculation Therapy

1. CONCEPTUALISATION PHASE - The therapist and the client establish a relationship, and the client is educated about the nature and impact of stress. The therapist helps the individual to identify their stressors and how they respond to these and how successful these responses have been. Patterns of self-defeating internal dialogue are identified. The client is taught to view percieved threats as problems to be solved, and to break down global stressors into specific components that can be worked with. The allows the client to reconceptualise (think differently about) their problem.

2. SKILLS ACQUISITION PHASE (and rehearsal) - The therapist helps the individual to develop and practice positive coping statements and skills to be rehearsed and used in stressful situations. Other techniques such as positive thinking, relaxation, and making a realistic appraisal of situations are also practised. The skills are tailored to the individual's specific problems. Cognitive (encourage different thinking) and behavioural (learing more adaptive bevhaviours) skills are used.

3. APPLICATION PHASE (and follow-though) - The individual begins to apply the newly acquired skills to progressively more difficult situations in the real world. The therapist provides support and further training when necessary.

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Evaluation - strengths of SIT


Michenbaum (1977) compared SIT with systematic de-sensitisation in overcoming snake phobias. SIT proved to be more effective as it helped clients deal with a second, non-treated phobia. This shows that SIT can innoculate against future stressful situations as well as help coping with current problems.

Sheehy and Horan (2004) examined the effects of SIT on the anxiety, stress and academic performance of first-year law students. Participants recieved four, 90 minute, weekly sessions of SIT. All participants showed lower levels of anxiety and stress over time

Preparation for future stressors

Deals with current stressors, and also gives the client the skills and confidence to cope with future problems. The focus on skills aquisition provides long-lasting effectiveness so that the individual is less adversely affected by stressors in the future

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Evaluation - limitations of SIT

Time consuming and requires high motivation

  • It requires a lot of time, effort, and motivation
  • However, Meichenbaum also demonstrated the effectiveness of even relatively brief periods of therapy, for example victims of sexual assault or for preparing patients for surgery

Unnecessarily complex

  • The effectiveness of SIT may be due to certain elements of the training rather than all of it.
  • This means that the range of activities (and time) could be reduced without losing much of the effectiveness
  • For example, it might be equally effective to just learn to talk more positively and relax more
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Evaluation - Real-world applications

Harnessing technology to manage exam stress

Recent developments have meant that multimedia stress inoculation narratives can now be produced to reduce anxiety in 'virtual' stressful environments.

Riva et al (2007) developed a SIT audio and video narrative that targeted typical biological reactions to exams (conceptualisation phase) as well as possible coping strategies (skill aquisiton phase). Most importantly, the programme immersed students within a multimedia 'virtual exam scenario' where they could apply these strategies (application phase).The students produced significantly greater reductions in exam anxiety and higher exam marks.

Sports performance

SIT had been utilised by athletes to overcome stress that would otherwise hinder their performance. Understanding how their thinking is keeping them from reaching their full performance means that they can develop new coping strategies which can have a profoundly positive impact on their performance. SIT has been linked with improved performance in sports such as cross-country running and particularly gymnastics (Kerr and Leith, 1993)

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