Publication Details

Whiting, D. L., Deane, F. P., Simpson, G. K., McLeod, H. J. & Ciarrochi, J. (2017). Cognitive and psychological flexibility after a traumatic brain injury and the implications for treatment in acceptance-based therapies: A conceptual review. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 27 (2), 263-299.


2015 Taylor & Francis This paper provides a selective review of cognitive and psychological flexibility in the context of treatment for psychological distress after traumatic brain injury, with a focus on acceptance-based therapies. Cognitive flexibility is a component of executive function that is referred to mostly in the context of neuropsychological research and practice. Psychological flexibility, from a clinical psychology perspective, is linked to health and well-being and is an identified treatment outcome for therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). There are a number of overlaps between the constructs. They both manifest in the ability to change behaviour (either a thought or an action) in response to environmental change, with similarities in neural substrate and mental processes. Impairments in both show a strong association with psychopathology. People with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) often suffer impairments in their cognitive flexibility as a result of damage to areas controlling executive processes but have a positive response to therapies that promote psychological flexibility. Overall, psychological flexibility appears a more overarching construct and cognitive flexibility may be a subcomponent of it but not necessarily a pre-requisite. Further research into therapies which claim to improve psychological flexibility, such as ACT, needs to be undertaken in TBI populations in order to clarify its utility in this group.



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