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A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Attention Training Technique and Mindful Self-Compassion for Students With Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

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The Attention Training Technique (ATT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) are two promising psychological interventions. ATT is a 12-min auditory exercise designed to strengthen attentional control and promote external focus of attention, while MSC uses guided meditation and exercises designed to promote self-compassion. In this randomized controlled trial (RCT), a three-session intervention trial was conducted in which university students were randomly assigned to either an ATT-group (n = 40) or a MSC-group (n = 41). The students were not assessed with diagnostic interviews but had self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress. Participants listened to audiotapes of ATT or MSC before discussing in groups how to apply these principles for their everyday struggles. Participants also listened to audiotapes of ATT and MSC as homework between sessions. Participants in both groups showed significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression accompanied by significant increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and attention flexibility post-intervention. These results were maintained at 6-month follow-up. Improvement in attention flexibility was the only significant unique predictor of treatment response. The study supports the use of both ATT and MSC for students with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Further, it suggests that symptom improvement is related to changes in attention flexibility across both theoretical frameworks. Future studies should focus on how to strengthen the ability for attention flexibility to optimize treatment for emotional disorder.
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... Mental health shame is diverse and includes, but is not limited to, an individual perceiving that because of their mental health: others would view them (external shame) or their family members (reflected shame) negatively; and/or they view themselves negatively (internal shame) (Gilbert et al., 2007). Interestingly, research has indicated that cultural differences may exist in the type of mental health shame that individuals exhibit, with Asian populations reporting stronger external mental health shame than non-Asian populations (Gilbert et al., 2007;Kotera, Sheffield et al., 2021). ...
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... Only one of the two studies targeting AF collected measures to assess changes in attention patterns [28]. Participants receiving ATT or mindfulness showed similarly large (significant) pre-to-post increases in questionnaire measures of attention flexibility. ...
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... For instance, numerous studies have shown that self-compassion had a negative effect on depressive symptoms [6,14,16,17]. As a result, various evidence-based intervention programs have included a component of self-compassion to improve mental health ( [18]; see also [19], for a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials involving self-compassion interventions). Nevertheless, most of the studies on self-compassion and depression concerns adults from clinical or non-clinical populations [16,17]. ...
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Wells's (1990) attention training technique (ATT) is a neurobehavioral therapy for emotional disorders that purportedly can improve upon existing treatment efforts for these disorders. Yet, ATT remains underutilized in the treatment of emotional disorders. One tenable reason for the underutilization of ATT is that researchers and clinicians alike may generally be unfamiliar with ATT and studies supporting its use. We sought to: (a) outline the setup and potential barriers to implementing ATT, (b) describe the distinctiveness of ATT from related interventions, (c) update readers on studies that have examined ATT since an earlier review, (d) discuss limitations surrounding extant All studies that preclude us from fully understanding the therapeutic benefits of ATT and describe how future studies can address these limitations, and (e) extend prior discussions of potential mechanisms of change underlying ATT. Our review of empirical evidence for ATT suggests that ATT could be considered a possibly efficacious treatment for emotional disorders, with a great need existing for future efficacy studies that evaluate All as a standalone intervention. We offer recommendations for future research interested in shedding further light onto the therapeutic benefits of ATT.