Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mindfulness Intervention for Child Abuse Survivors

A group of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine conducted a pilot study enrolling 27 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. At the end of the program, participants exhibited significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. These gains remained significant when participants were tested again 2 months after the program ended.

Although I’ve talked to therapists who are using meditation-based groups for people with PTSD—and even co-led one myself on my internship—this is the first published study I’ve come across. For that reason, I was excited about this article; however, there were some major limitations to this study. For one, participants were required to also be in individual psychotherapy; consequently, results cannot be attributed to MBSR alone. Additionally, because there was no control group, the researchers cannot rule out natural decline in symptoms unrelated to the treatment, or a placebo effect.

Despite these concerns, improvements were quite large, suggesting that additional study of MBSR with trauma survivors is worthwhile. Moreover, that 85% of participants attended the final MBSR session suggests that the treatment was well tolerated and appropriate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Personally, I hope to see additional research on the use of mindfulness and meditation in addressing PTSD.

For the full citation:

Kimbrough, E., Magyari, T., Langenberg, P., Chesney, M., & Berman, B. (2009). Mindfulness intervention for child abuse survivors. Journal of clinical psychology, 66(1), 17-33.

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