Cognitive and Behavioural Processes and Change

The Cognitive and Behavioral Processes and Change: Health and Psychopathology in Different Settings (CBPC) Research Group focuses on emotion regulation processes, vulnerability and maintenance factors of psychopathology, processes associated with therapeutic change, and 3rd wave empirically-based psychological interventions (e.g., Mindfulness-Based Interventions, Compassion Focused Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), in different populations (e.g., general, clinical, forensic) and age groups (e.g., adolescence, adulthood).

 

In particular, three main research topics have been guiding the RG work:

  1. Study of determinants and processes of human functioning, with two main areas of study:

    1. The importance of constructs derived from the evolutionary perspective (e.g., shame, self-criticism, social rank, entrapment), and of rearing experiences to psychopathology vulnerability. These studies were conducted in general population and clinical samples (e.g. eating disorders, social phobia, depression, paranoia, and borderline personality disorder) and contributed to the development of a comprehensive model of psychopathology vulnerability and maintenance, as well as to the gathering of evidence supporting the development of innovative techniques for therapeutic intervention in clinical conditions in which shame and self-criticism play a central role.
    2. The impact of emotion regulation processes (e.g. experiential avoidance, cognitive fusion, psychological flexibility, mindfulness, self-compassion) and of meta-cognitive processes (e.g. rumination, thought suppression) on psychological adjustment and on psychopathological indicators in several clinical (e.g. social anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder) and medical conditions (e.g., infertility, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, congenital cardiopathies). The identification of these processes of change was important since it provided more proximal targets for interventions.

    In the past 5 years, the RG has expanded this studies by exploring genetic (e.g. polygenic variations), physiological (e.g. inflammatory correlates, heart rate variability) and emotional regulation processes (mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance) implicated in the vulnerability to, maintenance of, and resilience against psychological difficulties (e.g. mood disorders, social anxiety, insomnia, binge eating, self-harm, anti-social behavior, psychotic disorders, substance abuse), and in the promotion of well-being in chronic medical conditions (e.g. obesity, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain, infertility). 

    Of note, The RG has expanded its prospective studies on the role of several psychological processes (e.g., cognitive fusion, experiential avoidance, self-criticism, body image shame) as risk factors for the development of psychopathological symptoms (e.g., self-harm, disordered eating, depression) and physical health indicators (e.g., lipid profile, physical quality of life) in different mental (e.g., major depressive disorder) and physical (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, obesity) health conditions, and the general population.

  2. Development and efficacy test of psychological interventions: The RG has developed and conducted several empirically-based psychological interventions at different levels (prevention, treatment and rehabilitation), in different populations (physical health conditions – e.g. infertility, obesity, cancer; – mental health problems – e.g. binge eating, major depression disorder, anti-social behavior, psychotic disorders -, and general population), through different formats (individual and group face-to-face, and ICT-based interventions) in different age groups (adolescence, young adults, and adults).

    In particular in the past 5 years, the RG has developed, applied, and tested the efficacy of innovative psychotherapeutic programs in different populations: binge eating disorder (BEfree: a group face-to-face intervention; and CARE: a low intensity ICT program), obesity (KgFree), infertility (MBPI), anti-social behavior (GPS), and the general population (CMT). These interventions were based on contextual-behavioral approaches that resulted in a decrease in psychopathological symptoms and an increase in quality of life, emotion regulation processes (e.g., acceptance, self-compassion, mindful awareness) and psychophysiological correlates of health (e.g., heart rate variability, lipid profile, biometric indicators).

  3. Psychological assessment: The RG has validated, developed and adapted assessment instruments related to research and clinical practice in the Portuguese-speaking population (i.e. European and Brazilian Portuguese). A particular emphasis was put on developing new content-specific measures of key psychological processes (e.g. experiential avoidance, cognitive fusion, self-stigma, shame, self-disgust, body image) in different populations (e.g. binge eating, chronic illness, obesity, psychosis, young offenders), and on translating and developing clinical interviews (young offenders and psychotic disorders, respectively).

Scientific Coordinator

17 integrated PhD members, 15 integrated non-PhD researchers and 25 collaborators are part of this RG.

The scientific coordinator of the CBPC RG is José Augusto Pinto de Gouveia.