Understanding how cognitive processes are naturally used by untrained individuals in the moment to cope with difficult thoughts may help inform effective and efficient interventions.
This study investigated self-reported naturalistic use of two evidence-based processes, cognitive restructuring and cognitive defusion, in an untrained, predominantly White female college student sample (n = 194) through ecological momentary assessments over seven days.
Cognitive restructuring and defusion had a large positive relationship. Both processes were also positively associated with increased momentary use of suppression and distraction. Only momentary defusion was associated with decreased rumination and negative affect at the same timepoint, while both defusion and restructuring were associated with positive affect and increased values progress at the same timepoint. Momentary defusion predicted later values progress, but only among those with low distress.
Overall, results suggest that both cognitive restructuring and cognitive defusion are used in a nonclinical, untrained population, that both processes are overall beneficial when used in the moment, and that defusion may be particularly relevant to certain aims such as lower rumination or values progress across time points. Replication among clinical and more diverse populations is needed.