Abstract: Effects of Meditation Practice on Mental Health Outcomes of Trauma Survivors: A Small Randomized Controlled Trial (Research that Promotes Sustainability and (re)Builds Strengths (January 15 - 18, 2009))

9522 Effects of Meditation Practice on Mental Health Outcomes of Trauma Survivors: A Small Randomized Controlled Trial

Saturday, January 17, 2009: 2:00 PM
Balcony N (New Orleans Marriott)
* noted as presenting author
Mo Yee Lee, PhD , Ohio State University, Professor, Columbus, OH
Amy Zaharlick, PhD , Ohio State University, Associate Professor, Columbus, OH
Deborah Akers, PhD , Miami University of Ohio, Assistant Professor, Powell, OH
Background and Purpose: PTSD symptoms describe a situation in which trauma survivors react psychologically and physiologically to present-time experiences with diminished emotional regulating ability and react as if they are presently experiencing the original traumas. Effective treatment for trauma survivors will need to (1) Foster clients' capacity to recognize and attend to current experiences as well as to differentiate them from past traumatic experiences; (2) Enhance clients' ability to stay physiologically calm so that they can beneficially process and integrate their trauma experiences; and (3) Enhance clients' self-regulating abilities so they make choices that are responsive and beneficial to their current needs and situations. Meditation not only brings about a relaxation response (Lazar et al., 2000), through meditation, one also cultivates the ability to create a mindful existence, know the state of the mind and body at all times, reduce negative thoughts associated with anxiety, worry, and stress; and enhance positive thoughts (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Meditation should have positive impacts on trauma survivors's mental health outcomes

Methods: This was a small-randomized controlled trial that examined the impact of a 6-week meditation curriculum in a sample of 40 female trauma survivors who had PTSD diagnoses. Clients were residents at Amethyst, Inc., which is a substance abuse treatment program for homeless women. Participating clients were randomly assigned to the intervention group (20) and the control group (20). Treatment conditions consisted of a six-week meditation curriculum devoted to Breathing Meditation, Lovingkindness Meditation, and Compassion Meditation. The meditation class met twice every day for one hour, five days a week for six weeks. The study hypothesized that meditation would lead to a decrease in PTSD symptoms (Modified PTSD Symptom Scale, MPSS), increase in positive emotions (The Intensity and Time Affect Survey, ITAS), and increase in emotional regulation abilities (Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Distress, SIDES).

Results: Findings of repeated measures of ANOVA indicated that there were significant Time Group interaction effects in MPSS Total Score [F (1, 25 ) =4.73, p = .039], MPSS Avoidance Subscale [F (1, 25) =4.12, p = .05], and MPSS Hyperarousal Subscale [F (1, 25) =5.68, p = .025]; ITAS Positive Emotion Score [F (1,29 ) =6.11, p = .020], ITAS Joy Subscale [F (1, 29) =10.12, p = .003]; and SIDES Disorders of affect regulation Subscale [F (1,30 ) =6.29, p = .018] (Table 3). Positive changes in the intervention group from pre-treatment to post-treatment were significantly greater than the changes observed in the control group.

Implications: While the intervention will need to be tested in a large-scale effectiveness study, this meditation curriculum has the potential to provide a strengths-based and empowering method of treatment for trauma survivors. By training clients to attend to the present, enhancing clients' ability to stay physiologically calm, and increasing positive emotions, meditation practice allows clients to unfold their internal and personal resources to address the problems of trauma. In terms of service provision, meditation provides a low-cost, non-intrusive, sustainable, and convenient intervention for helping trauma survivors in their recovery process.