A Learning Theory Approach to Stress and Stress Management
Hansell, Phyllis Silvey
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The purpose. The purpose of this research was threefold:(l) to review and evaluate stress theory and literature, (2) to construct a learning theory approach to the fields of stress research and stress management, and (3) to design stress-management instructional materials based on the reconceptualization. Procedure. A review of stress theoretical and research literature was conducted. The results of that review indicated that a sound and consistent theoretical approach was lacking. In addition, there was little connection between any theoretical conceptualization and stress management strategies. The relevant areas of learning theory and research were then applied to the stress concepts and treatment techniques. This allowed a repositioning of stress theory and associated human problems within a behavioral framework. Conclusions. There is a congruency in certain of the theoretical positions. That congruency, although limited, does allow the necessary assurance that the two approaches are, in fact, addressing the same problems. The positioning of stress within theoretical behaviorism provides a comprehensive theory and principles to explain the stress response, its acquisition and maintenance. Behavioral technology offers effective procedures to reduce the occurrence of stress and its effects. It is the position of this project that a more detailed analysis of the kinds of learning that contribute to the development of the stress response and the maintenance of its associated problem behaviors may clarify the conditions under which such learning takes place as well as suggesting more effective treatment procedures. Recommendations. The first recommendation is that the initial materials designed in the instructional section of the dissertation be field tested. Only by employing the analysis steps in actual attempts to assess stress problems and to construct intervention programs to solve them, can their effectiveness be analyzed. The position taken here is that different learning processes underlie different stress problems and that therefore any treatment strategies selected should be theoretically consistent with the assessment analysis. If that is correct, it should be supported by research which would compare the effectiveness of such an individualized assessment/treatment strategy with one or more of the traditional approaches. Such research attempts is a further recommendation.
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