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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was introduced in 1995 to address the problem of recurrent depression. MBCT is based on the notion that meditation helps individuals effectively deploy and regulate attention to effectively manage and treat a range of psychological symptoms, including emotional responses to stress, anxiety, and depression. Several studies demonstrate that mindfulness approaches can effectively reduce negative emotional reactions that result from and/or exacerbate psychiatric difficulties and exposure to stressors among children, adolescents, and their parents. Mindfulness may be particularly relevant for youth with maladaptive cognitive processes such as rumination. Clinical experience regarding the utility of mindfulness-based approaches, including MBCT, is being increasingly supported by empirical studies to optimize the effective treatment of youth with a range of challenging symptoms. This paper provides a description of MBCT, including mindfulness practices, theoretical mechanisms of action, and targeted review of studies in adolescents.
Mindfulness meditation is a useful adjunct to behavioral and medical interventions to manage a range of symptoms, including psychological and physical responses to stress, anxiety, depression, and disruptive behavior. Mindfulness approaches can be taught to children, adolescents, and their parents to improve self-regulation, particularly in response to stress. Mindfulness may be particularly relevant for youth and families who have an increased risk for exposure to chronic stress and unique stressors associated with medical and/or social-contextual considerations. Moreover, mindfulness parenting techniques can augment traditional behavioral approaches to improve children׳s behavior through specific parent–child interactions. A growing body of empirical studies and clinical experience suggest that incorporating mindfulness practices will enable clinicians to more effectively treat youth and their families in coping optimally with a range of challenging symptoms.
ObjectivesMindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been shown to improve mental health and reduce stress in a variety of adult populations. Here, we explore the effects of a school-based MBSR program for young urban males. Participants and methods In fall 2009, 7th and 8th graders at a small school for low-income urban boys were randomly assigned to 12-session programs of MBSR or health education (Healthy Topics—HT). Data were collected at baseline, post-program, and three-month follow-up on psychological functioning; sleep; and salivary cortisol, a physiologic measure of stress. Results Forty-one (22 MBSR and 19 HT) of the 42 eligible boys participated, of whom 95% were African American, with a mean age of 12.5 years. Following the programs, MBSR boys had less anxiety (p = 0.01), less rumination (p = 0.02), and showed a trend for less negative coping (p = 0.06) than HT boys. Comparing baseline with post-program, cortisol levels increased during the academic terms for HT participants at a trend level (p = 0.07) but remained constant for MBSR participants (p = 0.33). Conclusions In this study, MBSR participants showed less anxiety, improved coping, and a possible attenuation of cortisol response to academic stress, when compared with HT participants. These results suggest that MBSR improves psychological functioning among urban male youth.