Why Do Child Healthcare Providers and Advocates Want to Learn Mindfulness?
In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn pioneered the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worchester. He was the first to bring mindfulness meditation practices into the Western clinical setting for patients and healthcare professionals. Being a scientist, Jon initiated research studies from the outset of the program. As such, MBSR has a long history of use and efficacy with various clinical populations in healthcare settings and is considered an evidence-based therapeutic intervention. Training in and regular practice of MBSR leads to improved stress management and positive outcomes in both mental and physical wellbeing. Additionally, MBSR practice deepens one’s ability to empathize and increases one’s ability to help patients and clients more generally. As an evidence-based treatment for clients and patients, MBSR conforms to the highest standards of patient care.
Mindfulness Training at Kristi House
Kristi House operates the only facility in South Florida that coordinates with community partners to ensure that all emotional, physical, and legal needs for child victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and/or trafficking, some as young as 3 years old, are provided for under one roof. Prior to the agency’s first organization in 1994, child advocates discovered that many children who were victims of sexual abuse in our community were slipping through the cracks of the social services system and not receiving the services needed to recover from the trauma of their abuse. The former system of care, rather than helping victims, was deterring families from seeking help.
MKM is working with Kristi House and Project GOLD staff (social workers, therapists, prosecutors of sex crimes, and their Executive Director) to help them bring mindfulness training to the children and families they serve. Our inner Journey Mindfulness Training includes Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with an emphasis on the practice of loving kindness. Over 9 weekly training sessions (27 hours), the program increases awareness, helps to reduce stress, minimizes vicarious trauma, teaches self-care and coping skills, cultivates compassion and empathy, and increases wellbeing for both caregivers and their clients.
Research shows that working with trauma victims can involve significant risk and affect a counselor’s empathic abilities, lessening their capacity to help clients (Dunkley & Whelan, 2006). Those working with traumatized clients can experience vicarious traumatization, burnout, and/or compassion fatigue, especially if they do not use adequate coping/self-care strategies. Mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, increase capacity for empathy, and improve life quality in healthcare professions (Christopher & Maris, 2010). Research even shows that non-meditating clients of meditating counseling trainees reported marked improvements (Grepmair et al., 2007). More generally, mindfulness helps trauma survivors become stronger, more resilient, and whole as they develop a sense of control, internal resources for healing, and ways to make meaning from their experience (Goodman & Calderon, 2012).