Removing the Mask of Affection: A Contextual Behavioral Approach to Treating Impostor Experience in Psychology Graduate Students

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

John McNeill, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Peter Buirski, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Claire Dean Sinclair, Psy.D.


Impostor experience, Psychology graduate students, Graduate training, ACT

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


Research indicates that impostor experience is commonplace, particularly among psychology graduate students (Dompé, 2010; Gibbs, 1984; Morris, 1991; Niles, 1993). These studies suggest that the development of impostor experience in some students appears to be the joint function of personal psychological vulnerabilities and external factors associated with psychology graduate programs, which left untreated may have adverse effects for both the students and the clientele they serve. This paper will provide both a general overview of impostor experience and a more specific perspective of the context of impostor experience among psychology graduate students. Impostor experience will be formulated in terms of a contextual behavioral account as a guide to intervention using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This paper will detail the connection between experiential avoidance, psychological inflexibility, and the construct of impostor experience, and how ACT may offer an effective treatment to address this condition in psychology graduate students to enhance their psychological health and well-being, as well as improve the well-being of their clients for whom they are providing psychological treatment.


34 pages

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