Presentation Title

Mindfulness in the Presence of Challenging Behavior

Brief Biography

Andrew Roach, Ph.D. is Associate Director of the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD)—a University Center for Excellence in Disability (UCEDD) at Georgia State University. He is an associate professor with joint appointments in the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services (College of Education) and the School of Public Health. Dr. Roach is a former elementary and middle school teacher (9 years of classroom experience) and also coordinated family-centered positive behavior support services at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University for 2 years.

Jacquelyn Bialo is a doctoral student in School Psychology at Georgia State University. She graduated from Brown University with a BA in public health and has a Masters in Public Health from Tufts University. She has previously done policy level research on increasing access to community-based services for children with special health care needs.

Dr. Mary Helen Hunt is a licensed psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist specializing in assessment, therapy, and mindfulness classes for children and adolescents. She is a partner at the Behavioral Institute of Atlanta and has been working with children and parents for 18 years. She has a keen interest in mindfulness-based practices in therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology, and draws upon neuroscience to help clients understand and strengthen the connection between mind and body. Dr. Hunt has completed yoga teacher certification and maintains a personal mindfulness practice.

Dr. Diana Gordick is a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in the mental health field. She specializes in working with adolescents, young adults, and families dealing with mood disorders, attention and executive functioning issues, trauma, health issues, adoption/attachment, and stress. With experience managing a large residential treatment center, Diana also provides professional supervision for mental health professionals.

Highest Degree of Presenter(s)

Andrew Roach, Ph.D.

Jackie Bialo, MPH

Mary Helen Hunt, Ph.D.

Diana Gordick, Ph.D.

Presentation Abstract

Surveys of classroom teachers indicate that approximately 25% consider their work to be “very or extremely stressful” (Kyriacou, 2001). A variety of factors—including student behavior and classroom management challenges—can contribute to teachers’ feelings of stress and frustration. Addressing teachers’ levels of stress is important because stress has been found to inhibit teachers’ work satisfaction and effectiveness in the classroom (Blase, 1986; Galbo, 1983). One of the most established and well-researched interventions for addressing stress is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. MBSR initially was implemented with medical patients experiencing anxiety and chronic pain, but over the past 20 years it has been modified for use with individuals with a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions as well as with general, non-clinical populations (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). The goal of mindfulness practices (like MBSR) is “not to change problematic thoughts or emotions, but rather to accept them for what they are—just private experiences, not literal truth” (O’Brien, Larson, & Murrell, 2008, p. 16). MBSR programs generally consist of a series of group sessions where participants learn a variety of mindfulness and meditation techniques (e.g., mindful eating, mindful walking, gentle yoga movements, and sitting meditation), and these techniques are practiced by participants with opportunities for discussion and clarification. The purpose of this presentation is to describe and practice a set of mindfulness and contemplative practices, and to describe the relevance of these practices for teachers and educators who work with and support children and adolescents with challenging behaviors.

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Mindfulness in the Presence of Challenging Behavior

Surveys of classroom teachers indicate that approximately 25% consider their work to be “very or extremely stressful” (Kyriacou, 2001). A variety of factors—including student behavior and classroom management challenges—can contribute to teachers’ feelings of stress and frustration. Addressing teachers’ levels of stress is important because stress has been found to inhibit teachers’ work satisfaction and effectiveness in the classroom (Blase, 1986; Galbo, 1983). One of the most established and well-researched interventions for addressing stress is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. MBSR initially was implemented with medical patients experiencing anxiety and chronic pain, but over the past 20 years it has been modified for use with individuals with a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions as well as with general, non-clinical populations (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). The goal of mindfulness practices (like MBSR) is “not to change problematic thoughts or emotions, but rather to accept them for what they are—just private experiences, not literal truth” (O’Brien, Larson, & Murrell, 2008, p. 16). MBSR programs generally consist of a series of group sessions where participants learn a variety of mindfulness and meditation techniques (e.g., mindful eating, mindful walking, gentle yoga movements, and sitting meditation), and these techniques are practiced by participants with opportunities for discussion and clarification. The purpose of this presentation is to describe and practice a set of mindfulness and contemplative practices, and to describe the relevance of these practices for teachers and educators who work with and support children and adolescents with challenging behaviors.