Mind or body: An investigation into the comparative efficacy of brief mindfulness-based and applied relaxation techniques for the treatment of anxiety



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Muscle relaxation training (MRT) and mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are effective treatments for reducing anxiety symptoms. However, both treatments are relatively time-intensive if used as individual components of a full treatment package. Thus, researchers have begun investigating the efficacy of brief, three and four session MRT and MBI protocols in reducing acute anxiety. Additionally, idiographic measures may be better suited to assess changes in anxiety symptoms over the course of these brief protocols; however, there is a paucity of research utilizing these individualized assessments. Utilizing an experimental crossover design, this study evaluated both the comparative efficacy of brief MRT and MBI protocols as well as potential sequencing effects when both are provided in a treatment package. Additionally, this study further investigated the increased sensitivity to change and reliability of idiographic measures by examining their psychometric properties over the course of treatment. Results suggested that, although the total reduction in anxiety, general emotional distress, and worry were similar between both the treatment groups and the assessment-only control group, the rate in which daily ratings of muscle tension and somatic anxiety changed differed between groups. When combined, results suggested that the sequencing of the two treatment protocols produced significantly different total reductions in worry, but not in anxiety or general emotional distress. Furthermore, sequencing did not differentially impact the rate in which daily ratings of muscle tension, somatic anxiety, or worry changed. Finally, results demonstrated significantly greater slope magnitudes and internal consistency reliabilities for idiographic scales than their nomothetic counterparts. Implications of these results for assessment and treatment are discussed.