Stress management intervention : evaluation of effectiveness and designation of a model
Interest in the area of stress management intervention has grown rapidly over the past decade, particularly within the commercial and business sectors. The implications of this can clearly be seen in the vast number of stress management programmes which have emerged during this time. Typically, these programmes consist of a number of cognitive-behavioural techniques which aim to reduce the individual's psychological and/or physiological symptoms of stress, eliminate or modify the stressor, or to change the cognitive appraisal of the stressor. Despite the plethora of stress management programmes in the commercial market, very little research has focused on determining the effectiveness of such packages. Furthermore, much of the research which has been undertaken has been methodologically flawed. This has probably occurred as a result of the researchers' failure to consider theoretical approaches towards the evaluative area of stress management intervention. Consequently, those models of stress management intervention which have been proposed have generally lacked empirical support. The objectives of the present study were to implement and evaluate a stress management intervention using a balanced and controlled design. The author intended to maximise its effectiveness by running the programme over five weeks, a period considerably longer than many interventions, using the expertise of a qualified psychologist and physiotherapist. Thirty-four members of staff from Sheffield Hallam University volunteered to take part in the interventions, with thirty-one members of staff acting as control subjects. All participants, both experimental and control, were from the academic, administrative and technical sectors of the University. The intervention consisted of sessions on the theory of stress and its consequences, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, assertiveness training and time management. The programme was evaluated in the short-term using the participants' scores on a number of standardised psychological tests and self-designed evaluative questionnaires, together with the participants' blood pressure readings. A four-month follow-up was also included into the design of the research. Consideration of the results from this study, together with criticisms of previous theoretical approaches to stress management interventions, led the author to design a Process Model of stress management intervention. This model focused on the short- and long-term outcomes of an intervention, and on the individual and their specific needs. A single-case study approach to stress management, using qualitative and quantitative research methods, was used to empirically test the Process Model. The author argued that the results from this study supported her model, and suggested that the model be used in the design of future evaluative studies of stress management intervention.