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Steven C. Hayes

Professor Emeritus He/him/his


Steven C. Hayes is Nevada Foundation Professor in the Behavior Analysis program at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada.

An author of 47 books and over 675 scientific articles, his career has focused on an analysis of the nature of human language and cognition and the application of this to the understanding and alleviation of human suffering. He is the developer of Relational Frame Theory, an account of human higher cognition, and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods. Dr. Hayes has been President of Division 25 of the APA, of the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. He was the first Secretary-Treasurer of the Association for Psychological Science, which he helped form and has served a 5-year term on the National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse in the National Institutes of Health. Google Scholar data ranks him among the top 935 highest impact living scholars worldwide in all areas of study and lists him as the 63rd highest impact psychologist in the world.

Dr. Hayes is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in addition to several other scientific societies. His work has been recognized by several awards including the Exemplary Contributions to Basic Behavioral Research and Its Applications from Division 25 of APA, the Impact of Science on Application award from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy. He was the University of Nevada, Reno Outstanding Researcher of the Year in 1997; the Nevada System of Higher Education Regents' Mid-Career Researcher of the Year in 2000; and the Nevada System of Higher Education Regents' Distinguished Career Researcher in 2022.

Dr. Hayes is actively involved in bringing science information to the public, such as through his blog on the Psychology Today blogMedium and Thrive Global websites. His TEDx talks on pain and purpose, or on quickly reining in the impact of unhelpful automatic thoughts, have been viewed over a million times and he appears regularly in major podcasts and on other media. His work in ACT has been validated by World Health Organization, and WHO now distributes ACT-based self-help for “anyone who experiences stress, wherever they live, and whatever their circumstances.” As of April 2022, a number of different organizations have stated that ACT is empirically supported in certain areas or as a whole according to their standards. These include: American Psychological Association, Society of Clinical Psychology (Div. 12); The World Health Organization; The United Kingdom National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); the Australian Psychological Society; Netherlands Institute of Psychologists: Sections of Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation; Sweden Association of Physiotherapists; SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices; California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare; and the U.S. Veterans Affairs/DoD.

Research interests

In the broadest terms, I am interested in the application of contextualistic perspectives to conceptual, methodological, and technological problems in psychology, both applied and basic. Stated another way, I am working to foster the development of contextual behavioral science. I am about equally interested in professional organizational work, administration, teaching and supervision, clinical practice and other applied work, and research.

My specific interests are as follows:

  • Integration of behavioral and biological science: I believe it is essential to nest contextual behavioral psychology into modern evolutionary science, and I am exploring the intellectual and practical implications of that integration.
  • Philosophy of science: I have worked to develop functional contextualism as a viable philosophical system and to explore its implications for behavioral and biological sciences.
  • Methodology and research strategy: I have focused on how to link functional contextual thinking to methodological and strategic issues such areas as time-series (single-case) designs, the role of theory, effectiveness research, treatment utility as a method of determining the value of assessment, reticulated interaction between applied and basic research, idionomic data analysis, and the nature and role of research on processes of change.
  • Assessment: I have worked on new measures of experiential avoidance, values, and cognitive fusion in various specific areas and how to develop assessment methods with a view toward functional impact and the accurate depiction of individual human functioning.
  • Basic psychology: I have worked to develop and test a comprehensive, experimentally-based functional contextual analysis of the nature of the human language and cognition: Relational Frame Theory (RFT).
  • Psychopathology: I have explored the role of experiential avoidance, cognitive fusion, loss of contact with the moment, lack of values clarify, rule-based psychological inflexibility and similar processes in the creation of human suffering.
  • Clinical application: I have worked to develop and test a functional contextual approach to human problems, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and to expand its approach to process and theory into process-based therapy more generally. I have also helped create a new model of evidence-based intervention, Process-Based Therapy.
  • Non-clinical applications: I have worked to apply RFT to such areas as education or social bias, to create intervention technologies based on ACT for problems such as stigma and prejudice, and to socially extend these ideas through application of evolutionary principles drawn from the work of Elinor Ostrom (see Prosocial World website).

My interests are not defined particularly by population or problem. I have done work in the last several years with anxiety, depression, psychosis, prejudice, burnout, stress, diabetes, weight control, sleeping, smoking, pain, and substance abuse, among other areas.


  • Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1977
  • M.A., Clinical Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1974
  • B.A. Cum Laude, Psychology, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California, 1970

Select publications

Steven C. Hayes ORCID#: 0000-0003-43996859

Books (last five years)

  • Dixon, M. R., Hayes, S. C., & Belisle, J. (2023). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for behavior analysts: A practice guide from theory to treatment. New York: Routledge.
  • Hofmann, S. G., Hayes, S. C., & Lorscheid, D. N. (2021). Learning process-based therapy: A Skills Training Manual for targeting the core processes of psychological change in clinical practice. New Harbinger Publications.
  • Hofmann, S. G. & Hayes, S. C. (2020). Beyond the DSM: A process-based approach. Oakland, CA: Context Press / New Harbinger Publications. 
  • Atkins, P., Wilson, D. S., & Hayes, S. C. (2019). Prosocial: Using evolutionary science to build productive, equitable, and collaborative groups. Oakland, CA: Context Press / New Harbinger Publications.
  • Hayes, S. C. (2019). A liberated mind: How to pivot toward what matters. New York: Penguin/Avery.
  • Wilson, D. S. & Hayes, S. C. (Eds.). (2018). Evolution and contextual behavioral science: An integrated framework for understanding, predicting, and influencing human behavior. Oakland, CA: Context Press / New Harbinger Publications.
  • Hayes, S. C. & Hofmann, S. G. (2018). (Eds.), Process-based CBT: The science and core clinical competencies of cognitive behavioral therapy. Oakland, CA: Context Press / New Harbinger Publications.
  • Luoma, J., Hayes, S. C., & Walser, R. (2017). Learning ACT: An Acceptance & Commitment Therapy skills-training manual for therapists (2nd ed). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Major publications (last five years)

Professional certifications

Licensed Psychologist, Nevada, License #185