Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major Professor

Jacob J. Levy

Committee Members

Jacob J. Levy, Barbara A. Murphy, Erin E. Hardin


Despite the pervasiveness of music performance anxiety (MPA) among musicians, the scientific literature on effective psychological interventions is relatively limited. While some MPA researchers regard cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as the best suited psychotherapeutic option, others position acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as both a promising treatment for MPA and means of performance enhancement. A third-wave behavioral therapy, ACT stands apart from traditional CBT in that the treatment does not attempt to reduce symptoms, but rather aims to increase psychological flexibility: the ability to contact the present moment with full awareness and engage in values-congruent action, even if doing so elicits psychological discomfort. To better understand the utility of an ACT-based approach for MPA, the present study explored relations between psychological flexibility, music performance anxiety, and perceived performance quality among university music students. Results showed a significant positive relationship between psychological flexibility and performance quality and a significant inverse relationship between psychological flexibility and MPA. One facet of psychological flexibility, cognitive defusion, emerged as a significant predictor of both perceived performance quality and MPA. The findings build on existing evidence demonstrating the suitability of ACT as both a treatment for MPA as well as method of performance enhancement for musicians. Additionally, results provide support for emphasizing defusion processes within an ACT for MPA treatment approach. The study holds particular significance for the population of interest, university music students, who commonly seek out specific skills and strategies for enhancing performance outcomes and managing the effects of MPA.

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