Abstract: Religiously Oriented Mindfulness for Social Workers: Effects on Mindfulness, Heart Rate Variability and Personal Burnout (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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638P Religiously Oriented Mindfulness for Social Workers: Effects on Mindfulness, Heart Rate Variability and Personal Burnout

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Regina Trammel, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor, APU, Azusa, CA
Background and Purpose: Mindfulness in the West is often secularized despite its historic and religious roots in Buddhism and Christianity (Frederick and White, 2015; Maex, 2011; Stratton, 2015; Trammel, 2017; Van Gordon and Griffiths, 2015). Kabat-Zinn’s (2011) definition of mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (p. 11) and how we define it in clinical (Hanley, Warner, and Garland, 2015), educational (McGarrigle and Walsh, 2011), and health (Messer, Horan, Larkey, and Shanholtz, 2019) settings.

There is growing concern that the secular mindfulness is limited (Van Gordon and Griffiths, 2015). As an example, Lindahl (2015) questions whether current use of mindfulness supplants the aim of Buddhism, which does not equate suffering as a state that should be alleviated.

This pilot study explored whether a Moving Pictures Experts Group-3 (MP3) delivered Religiously-Oriented Mindfulness (ROM) intervention over 4-6 weeks would improve outcomes for social workers. We hypothesized that pre-and-posttest comparisons of the Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) would increase at post-test, and Personal Burnout (PB) would show a decrease at post-test

Methods: A pre and post-test study design from a convenience sample of N=22, majority LatinX social workers in vivo (at job or university) using the MAAS, HRV, and the PB dimension of the Copenhagen Burnout Scale was used. Hard copy scales were collected during pre- and post-in vivo visits with the social workers. HRV data using a FirstBeat Bodyguard 2 Portable heart rate monitor for 6 minutes was collected at the visits.

HRV data was used to offset any self-reporting bias. HRV is associated with improvement in emotional and self-regulatory functioning (see Friedman, 2007; Park and Thayer, 2014; Thayer et al., 2009), prosocial attachment (e.g., Porges, 1998, 2003, 2007), resiliency to stress (Fabes and Eisenberg, 1997), and trait and state experiences of positive emotion (e.g., DiPietro, Porges, and Uhly, 1992; Oveis et al., 2009).

Results: Paired-sample t-tests revealed significant improvements between pre-and-post-test measures, with medium to large effect sizes for the MAAS, and HRV, and a smaller effect size for the decrease in PB. Cronbach’s α were: for Pre-test MAAS, α =0.868 and Post-test MAAS α =0.896. For Pre-test PB, α =.725 and Post-test PB α =.816 . Significant results were found: pre and post-test MAAS scores, t(20)= -2.45, p < .05, d=0.82, pre and post-test PB scores, t(19)= 3.95, p < .05, d=.21, and pre and post RMSDD scores (with full HRV collected), t(21)= -3.51, p = .00, d= 0.45 . A Levene’s test for equality of means analyzed comparison factors indicating they did not explain differences.

Conclusions: Results warrant further exploration of how a religiously oriented mindfulness intervention may improve mindfulness, HRV, and decrease personal burnout in social workers. The religious nature of the intervention, the diverse sample, the in vivo visits, and the use of HRV (recommended by Garland (2013), is novel in social work mindfulness studies. Implications point to a need for social workers to honor the historic religious meaning of mindfulness practice.