Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Clinical Psychology (MSCP)

Committee Chair

Michael Christopher, Ph.D.


HIV+ gay men experience significant mental health distress related to HIV status, including anxiety and depression (Leiphart, 1998). One major source of this distress is social stigma related to HIV status and sexual orientation, such as more societal blame for gay men contracting HIV than heterosexual men for contracting HIV (Herek, 1999; Herek & Capitanio, 1999). There has been significant evidence to support the effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in reducing distress related to social stigma and chronic illness (Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006; Ruiz, 2010). However, researchers have not explored the utility of ACT in treating distress in HIV+ gay men. The goal of the current study is to explore the potential effectiveness of ACT in treating HIV+ gay men. The participants were five therapists who worked with HIV+ gay men over a year. The participants were asked questions that reflect the six therapeutic processes of ACT: (1) being present, (2) defining valued directions, (3) committed action, (4) self as context, (5) cognitive defusion, and (6) acceptance (Luoma et al., 2007). The researcher defined five categories based on interviews with the participants: (1) social stigma hinders HIV+ gay men, (2) staying in the present, (3) accepting and disconnecting from thoughts and feelings, (4) consider events separate from self, and (5) finding meaning to define committed action. The participants supported the use of ACT for treating distress among HIV+ gay men, such as the importance of HIV+ gay men remaining present focused.


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