Title

Supporting Youth Who Are Experiencing Grief Through Mindfulness-Based Group Interventions

First Presenter's Institution

Augusta University

Second Presenter's Institution

Clemson University

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Session 7 (Ballroom E)

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Strand #2

Mental & Physical Health

Relevance

Both the ‘Heart’ and ‘Health’ strands align with this presentation. While this presentation will focus specifically on how mindfulness-based interventions may be used to support youth who are grieving (Health); mindfulness, once learned, is able to be universally applied to all facets of one’s life (Heart).

Brief Program Description

Approximately 5% of youth under the age of 18 have experienced parental loss. This percentage increases exponentially (60-65%) when loss of siblings, grandparents, and peers are considered. That said, few therapeutic interventions exist that are specifically tailored to the unique emotional, social, and developmental needs of children and adolescents who are experiencing grief. This presentation offers practical methods to support youth by using developmentally appropriate adaptations of mindfulness-based group interventions.

Summary

While grief is considered to be a universal experience, how grief manifests often varies across individuals. Youth who experience loss will react differently than that of an adult who has also experienced a loss (Himebauch, Arnold, & May, 2005). Moreover, depending on age and developmental level, grief may also manifest differently across children and adolescents. Therefore, therapeutic and support interventions used when working with youth who are experiencing grief should be developmentally appropriate to meet their unique needs. Depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, reduced ability to self-regulate, aggression or other behavioral concerns, shame and guilt, academic problems, and somatic symptomology (Dyregrov, 2008; Ener & Dee, 2018) have all been noted as characteristics of children and adolescents experiencing grief. During this presentation we will introduce methods of supporting grieving youth by using techniques grounded in Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Further, we will discuss how to appropriately adapt these interventions so as to meet the unique social and developmental needs of children and youth. As MBSR is both foundational to modern mindfulness-based practices, and has been found effective in reducing many of the symptoms associated with grief (eg, anxiety, troubled sleep, somatic symptomology), aligning mindfulness-based interventions with the principles and practices of MBSR is appropriate. Finally, we will present the five universal elements found throughout mindfulness constructs for consideration when developing mindfulness-based interventions for use with youth who are experiencing grief. Those in attendance may expect to gain greater knowledge of: (a) the impact of grief on children and adolescents from a developmental perspective; (b) the five elements found to be constant throughout mindfulness constructs and their clinical implications; (c) considerations when integrating mindfulness-based interventions into grief counseling or support groups for youth.

Evidence

Mindfulness may be described as “the expansion of ones awareness to encompass all present moment experiences while also choosing not to over-identify with any one, but instead accepting them simply as present; allowing an individual to become aware of the space between observation of thought, emotion or sensation, and response” (AUTHOR BLINDED, 2018, pp. 170-171). Additionally, the cultivation of mindfulness leads to calmness, relaxation, and increased insight into oneself (Kabat-Zinn, 1990); increasing one’s ability to engage in self- or emotional- regulation. Further, engagement in mindfulness practice may help focus one’s attention to the present moment, increase nonjudgemental attitude while decreasing critical self-judgements, and accept unpleasant emotions and experiences without reactivity (Bishop et al., 2004; Kabat-Zinn, 1990). As grieving youth often struggle to navigate the emotional, cognitive, and social effects of death and loss, mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions are uniquely designed to attend to the needs of this population. Further supporting this assertion, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been found effective in alleviating many of the symptoms associated with grief, including; anxiety (Miller et al., 1998), depression (Smith et al., 2008), chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn, 1982), and sleeplessness and insomnia (Cincotta et al., 2011). Finally, in an effort to mediate the isolation often experienced by grieving youth, and as a means of attending to their developmental need for peer support, mindfulness-based support groups also offer the benefits of built-in peer social support through the group setting (Halland et al., 2015; Shapiro et al., 2007).

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Therese L. Newton, PhD, NCC is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education in the Department of Advanced Studies and Innovation at Augusta University in Augusta, GA. She completed her doctoral studies at the University of South Carolina and has a background in clinical mental health counseling. Therese has worked as a mental health counselor in a variety of settings including, University counseling centers, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient treatment centers. Clinically, Therese specializes in working with women and adolescent girls, bereavement counseling, and eating disorders. Her research interests include client outcomes, cultivating facilitative counselor dispositions, mindfulness in counseling, and the use of single-case research design in counseling research.

Brooke Wymer, PhD, LISW-CP/Sis a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Counselor Education Program at Clemson University. She has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of South Carolina. She is a clinically licensed, trauma-focused therapist and supervisor with specializations in child sexual trauma treatment and parenting support interventions. Her research interests include trauma-focused clinical supervision, child trauma treatment, counselor wellness, and child abuse prevention.

Keyword Descriptors

children and adolescent loss; grief and bereavement, mindfulness

Presentation Year

March 2020

Start Date

3-10-2020 2:45 PM

End Date

3-10-2020 4:00 PM

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Mar 10th, 2:45 PM Mar 10th, 4:00 PM

Supporting Youth Who Are Experiencing Grief Through Mindfulness-Based Group Interventions

Session 7 (Ballroom E)

Approximately 5% of youth under the age of 18 have experienced parental loss. This percentage increases exponentially (60-65%) when loss of siblings, grandparents, and peers are considered. That said, few therapeutic interventions exist that are specifically tailored to the unique emotional, social, and developmental needs of children and adolescents who are experiencing grief. This presentation offers practical methods to support youth by using developmentally appropriate adaptations of mindfulness-based group interventions.