Stress Inoculation Training in Adolescents: Classroom Intervention Benefits

By Szabo, Zsuzsanna; Marian, Mihai | Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Stress Inoculation Training in Adolescents: Classroom Intervention Benefits


Szabo, Zsuzsanna, Marian, Mihai, Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies


Abstract

The present study was conducted to explore the efficacy of Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) in adolescents, as compared to classroom counseling on stress related topics, and to no counseling at all. Three groups of adolescents participated in the study, and responded to questionnaires measuring perceived stress, type of anxiety as a response to stress, and global and current self-esteem. Results show that Stress Inoculation Training is an effective method to teach adolescents stress coping strategies, having a statistically significant positive effect on perceived stress, anxiety, and current self-esteem thoughts, as measured in short-term and after three months.

Keywords: Stress Inoculation Training, stress, self-esteem, adolescents

Adolescents are subject to modern life stressors such as academic performance, peer pressure, work, and diverse family environment related stressors (Bowker, Bukowski, Hymel, & Sippola, 2000). School related stressors come mostly from demands for achievement, school assignments, time pressure, worries about the future, conflicts with teachers and peers, and difficulties with self-esteem and self-management (De Anda, 1998; De Anda et al., 2000; Murberg & Bru, 2004). School related stress has an effect on school performance and general functioning (Kaplan, Liu, & Kaplan, 2005). Studies have found that adolescents develop diverse reactions to stressors ranging from mild and transient ones, to significant and persistent emotional and behavioral disturbances (Grant, Compas, Thurm, McMahon, & Gipson, 2004; Phillips, Hammen, Brennan, Najman, & Bor, 2005).

In dealing with life stressors adolescents use instinctual or learned coping strategies. Coping strategies represent behavioral and cognitive efforts to deal with stressful encounters (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). School psychologists and counselors have an important role in helping adolescents cope with stress that can impede their personal development or academic progress; since as Borders and Drury note, school counseling has as "underlying purposes to facilitate the instructional process and student's academic success" (Borders & Drury, 1992, p. 488). Stress management programs, such as Meichenbaum's (1985, 1993) model of Stress Inoculation Training (SIT), based on cognitive and behavioral techniques have produced a decrease in anxiety and stress in adolescents participating in the programs (Allen, 1988; De Anda, 1998; Meichenbaum & Deffenbacher, 1988; Meichenbaum & Fitzpatrick, 1993; Yahav & Cohen, 2008). The SIT model is related to the universal model of stress encounter (Lazarus, 1966, 1993; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), and takes place in three successive phases (Meichenbaum, 1985, 1993):

1. Conceptualization, an education phase in which the person will develop understanding of relevant situational and personal constructs

2. Skill acquisition and rehearsal, a phase when the person will acquire relevant coping skills and adjustment mechanisms

3. Application, when the person will take part in controlled exposures to images or in vivo samples of relevant situations. The person will also be encouraged to apply knowledge from the first two stages and to generalize this knowledge to various future events.

The SIT training is built on the premise that skills learned through inoculation training may be transferred to other, future stressful situations encountered by the person. Kiselica, Baker, Thomas and Reedy (1994), showed that SIT training with adolescents alleviated anxiety and stress while increasing academic performance and that the effects were maintained after four weeks following SIT training. Sheehy and Horan (2004), in a study involving 1st-year law students, found positive effects of SIT training on the anxiety, stress, irrationality, and a statistically significant academic performance improvement. Results from a meta-analysis conducted by Saunders, Driskell, Johnston, and Salas (1996), based on 37 studies with 1,837 participants, show that SIT was effective in reducing performance anxiety and state anxiety and in enhancing performance under stress. …

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