Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Trier Social Stress Test, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Autogenic Training, Acute Stress, Cardiovascular reactivity, Cardiovascular recovery

Major Advisor

Dean Cruess

Associate Advisor

Amy Gorin

Associate Advisor

John Salamone

Associate Advisor

Marianne L. Barton

Associate Advisor

Juliane R. Fenster

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


The Impact of Brief Clinical Interventions on Cardiovascular Reactions to Acute Stress

Katherine Elizabeth O’Leary

University of Connecticut, 2013

Stress is a major public health concern due to its’ harmful effects on physical and mental health. An important goal for clinical health practitioners is to help patients reduce the psychological and physiological burden of stress. The present study sought to examine the impact brief clinical interventions have on cardiovascular reactions to acute stress. Additionally, we explored how depressive and anxiety symptomatology influence cardiovascular reactivity and recovery, and their moderating effects on treatment response to interventions. To address these aims, subjects were randomized into one of three conditions (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Autogenic Training, Attention-only Control group) prior to undergoing an acute psychosocial stress paradigm, the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Psychosocial measures were given at baseline, and heart rate and blood pressure measurements were obtained at various time points throughout the protocol. Our results indicated a time by group interaction for heart rate (HR) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), demonstrating that brief interventions differentially affected heart rate and diastolic blood pressure over time. Within the Autogenic Training group results showed that subjects with higher levels of depressive symptomatology had lower systolic blood pressure reactivity compared to those with lower levels of depressive symptoms. Additionally, within the Autogenic Training group, greater recovery in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure was found in subjects with higher levels of social anxiety. Our results offer important implications for clinical assessment and intervention, particularly within the field of behavioral medicine.