Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Evaluating the Factor Structure and Internal Consistency Reliability of the Therapeutic Reactance Scale. (Assessment & Diagnosis)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Evaluating the Factor Structure and Internal Consistency Reliability of the Therapeutic Reactance Scale. (Assessment & Diagnosis)

Article excerpt

Over the last decade, the construct of psychological reactance has been receiving increased attention in the area of counseling process and outcome (Bischoff, 1997; Dodds & Dowd, 1997; March, 1993; Seibel & Dowd, 1995). Prior to the development of paper-and-pencil measures of reactance, reactance was assessed by noncompliance with homework assignments (Dowd & Swoboda, 1984) or by measures originally developed for other purposes (Kerr, Olson, Claiborn, Bauers-Gruenler, & Paolo, 1983). With the recent development of paper-and-pencil measures, researchers have been able to investigate this construct more thoroughly. However, these new instruments have not yet been rigorously examined. To date, no study could be located that examined the psychometric properties of the Therapeutic Reactance Scale (TRS), except for the original publication of the scale (Dowd, Milne, & Wise, 1991). Clearly, before counselors base treatment decisions on the client's level of reactance, they should be reasonably certain that this construct is being measured adequately.

The theory of psychological reactance was originally proposed by J. W. Brehm (1966) and further elaborated by J. W. Brehm and Brehm (1981). The theory proposes that reactance is a motivational force aroused when real or perceived personal freedoms are threatened, reduced, or eliminated. Reactance is directed toward the restoration of those freedoms and can be expressed in various ways (J. W. Brehm & Brehm, 1981). Individuals may directly engage in the prohibited behavior, receive gratification by observing others engage in the behavior, or may engage in aggression against the individual reducing or eliminating the freedoms. It should be noted that because reactance is a "potential," it represents a possibility of something becoming actual; reactance may not be exhibited in all situations that tend to restrict freedoms (J. W. Brehm & Brehm, 1981). For example, individuals may not exhibit reactance when the risk is too great or when it may lead to further reduction or elimination of freedoms (Dowd, 1999).

Although psychological reactance was initially viewed as a situational-specific variable, J. W. Brehm and Brehm (1981) and others (Dowd et al., 1991; Hong & Page, 1989; Jahn & Lichstein, 1980; Rohrbaugh, Tennen, Press, & White, 1981) later considered it to be a trait of the individual. Research into the personality correlates of psychological reactance indicates that different individuals may indeed exhibit different levels of psychological reactance (Buboltz & Woller, 1999; Dowd & Wallbrown, 1993; Dowd, Wallbrown, Sanders, & Yesenosky, 1994). For example, Dowd and Wallbrown (1993) found significant relationships between the Personality Research Form (PRF; Jackson, 1984) and psychological reactance. Their results suggest that psychological reactance is associated with a tendency for individuals to be defensive, dominant, and aggressive. In addition, reactant individuals tend to be forceful and domineering in nature, individualistic, controlling, and have a tendency to act without consideration of consequences. Furthermore, it has been hypothesized that reactance may systematically predict other psychologically relevant variables that mediate the impact of counseling interventions (S. S. Brehm, 1976; Merz, 1983). For example, March (1993) found that reactant individuals rated therapists as less trustworthy and were less willing to see them for therapy. Seibel and Dowd (in press) found that high levels of reactance were negatively related to therapist's ratings of global improvement. High levels of reactance have been found to be associated with more stress and fewer task-oriented coping skills (Palmentera, 1996). In addition, reactance has been found to be positively correlated with psychological symptom severity of clients (Bischoff, 1997). Given this evidence, it seems that psychological reactance is, at least in part, an individual trait. …

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