Psychological methods: Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
SIT is a form of cognitive restructuring as it is a method of changing an individual’s thinking patterns about themselves and their lives. The aim is to change their emotional responses and their behaviour ideally before the individual becomes very anxious or depressed as a result of stress.
Developed by Meichenbaum in the 1960s it is a three stage procedure carried out with the help of a therapist. It is based on the assumption that people experience stress because they interpret an event or situation in catastrophising ways and their internal dialogue (their thoughts) are negative.
For example, an individual taking an exam might open the exam paper thinking ‘I just know I’m going to fail’.
The first stage of SIT is called ‘conceptualisation’. The therapist helps the individual to identify their stressors and how they respond to these and how successful these responses have been. Patterns of self-defeating internal dialogue are identified.
The second stage is ‘skill acquisition and rehearsal’. The therapist helps the individual to develop and practice positive coping statements to be used in stressful situations. Other techniques such as relaxation and making a realistic appraisal of situations are also practised.
In the third stage ‘application and follow-through’ the individual begins to apply the newly acquired skills to progressively more difficult situations in the real world. The therapist provides support and further training when necessary.
Meichenbaum (1997) reports that SIT and ‘the power-of-positive-thinking’ can be successful in bringing about appropriate behaviour change, particularly in relation to the anxiety associated with exams and pain. However, individuals vary in how easy they find it to use positive coping statements and the technique requires commitment and time before benefits can be experienced.