Acceptance and prayer intervention for adolescents with anxiety symptoms : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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Massey University
Prevention programs are increasingly being sought for adolescents with anxiety in order to reduce the high prevalence rate of both anxiety and depressive disorders. Historically, empirically-validated interventions have not been used in combination with spiritually-based therapies (Jackson, 2020). This can mean that clients are left with their faith unaddressed in the therapeutic setting. Disturbances in an individual's faith can contribute to psychological distress (Ellison, Bradshaw, Flannelly, & Galek, 2014). This study aimed to address this gap in literature by incorporating prayer into an acceptance and commitment therapy-based therapeutic model. To test the hypothesis that anxiety in adolescents can be reduced by the introduction of acceptance-based coping skills, together with an acceptance-based prayer, a brief open trial intervention with a single group, in pre-test, post-test method was adopted. The results were analyzed using a mixed methods approach including paired-samples t-tests for the quantitative analysis, and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) following a semi-structured interview. The results showed a large effect (d = 2.58) in the direction of the hypothesis: anxiety in adolescents decreased with the introduction of acceptance and prayer. Secondary analysis also revealed significant reductions in depression (d = 1.98) and psychological inflexibility (d = 1.28). However, there was no difference in the resultant levels of mindfulness (d = -0.33). These results suggest that an acceptance-based brief intervention, together with prayer, may be helpful for adolescents with anxiety. However, further larger studies are warranted and should include randomization and a control group in order to confirm these findings.