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Interpersonal Mindfulness Training for Well-Being: A Pilot Study With Psychology Graduate Students

by Jeanette Sawyer Cohen & Lisa J. Miller - 2009

Background/Context: Although mindfulness originated in Eastern meditation traditions, notably Buddhism, researchers, clinicians, and, more recently, educators suggest that the cultivation of mindfulness may be beneficial to Westerners uninterested in adopting Buddhist or other Eastern spiritual traditions. Mindfulness is understood as sets of skills that can be developed with practice and taught independently of spiritual origins as a way of being or relating to present-moment experience.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This pilot study adds to this literature on mindfulness training for nascent mental health professionals, who may be at risk for occupational stress and burnout. This study aims to (1) expand on preliminary research supporting the helpfulness of mindfulness interventions for graduate students in psychology and (2) investigate the feasibility and helpfulness of a novel adaptation of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) that emphasizes relational awareness.

Population/Participants/Subjects: This sample consisted of clinicians-in-training (N = 21) within a graduate department of counseling and clinical psychology at an urban university. All students were in their first or second year of graduate school; 20 participants were enrolled in a psychology master�s program, and 1 participant was a doctoral student in clinical psychology.

Intervention/Program/Practice: The authors investigated a novel 6-week interpersonal mindfulness training (IMT) program modeled after the manualized MBSR intervention, with an added emphasis placed on relational awareness. IMT aims to reduce perceived stress and enhance interpersonal well-being and, as such, may be particularly well-suited for psychotherapy trainees. IMT was integrated into a semester-long graduate course in psychology.

Research Design: A pre-post design was used to examine outcomes associated with participation in IMT.

Findings/Results: Results suggest that IMT with psychology graduate students is a feasible intervention that positively affects mindfulness, perceived stress, social connectedness, emotional intelligence, and anxiety. Of special interest are changes in interpersonal well-being that suggest potential benefits for future mental health professionals.

Conclusions/Recommendations: High attendance rate and positive program evaluations suggest that IMT can be successfully taught within a graduate psychology curriculum. We suggest that mindfulness training may be a useful complement to the standard training of future clinicians.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 12, 2009, p. 2760-2774
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15784, Date Accessed: 8/2/2021 2:20:18 AM

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About the Author
  • Jeanette Cohen
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    JEANETTE SAWYER COHEN (M.S., Columbia University) is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarship focuses on mindfulness in parents and psychotherapists. She has advanced training in parent–infant psychotherapy and has published on mindful parenting, resilience, and family systems.
  • Lisa Miller
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    LISA J. MILLER is an associate professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly interests include religion and spirituality, and depression and substance abuse and related risk factors and protective factors. Publications include “Religion and Substance Use and Abuse Among Adolescents in the National Cormorbidity Survey” in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and “Religion and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up of Depressed Mothers and Offspring” in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
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