Session impact in Stress Management Training


MRC/ESRC Social and Applied Psychology Unit, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK


Although Stress Management Training (SMT) appears to result in modest benefits for participants, it is unclear if these benefits are due to non-specific factors or specific skills related interventions. SMT with health care staff was delivered in six weekly sessions, with each session devoted to specific tasks and goals. Using a session impact methodology developed in psychotherapy research, participants rated each session in terms of depth, smoothness, post-session mood and 12 specific impacts, including task and interpersonal positive impacts, and problematic, negative impacts. As a validity check, SMT session ratings were compared with session ratings from psychotherapy sessions. As expected, SMT sessions resembled sessions of cognitive behavioural psychotherapy and differed from sessions of psychodynamic/interpersonal therapy. Impact ratings of SMT sessions were of three types: those which did not differ between sessions; those which appeared to reflect non-specific and group processes—which showed a significant linear trend over time; and those which reflected specific session content where no linear trend was detected but one or more sessions differed significantly from others. As in psychotherapy research, session impact ratings are a promising method of identifying specific mechanisms of change in worksite intervention studies.