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Purpose Although quantitative benefits of mindfulness training have been demonstrated in youth, little is known about the processes involved. The aim of this study was to gain a detailed understanding of how young people engage with the ideas and practices known as mindfulness using qualitative enquiry. Methods Following completion of a six-week mindfulness training program with a nonclinical group of 11 young people (age 16–24), a focus group (N = 7) and open-ended interviews (n = 5) were held and audio-recorded. Qualitative data, collected at eight time points over three months from the commencement of training, were coded with the aid of computer software. Grounded theory methodology informed the data collection process and generation of themes and an explanatory model that captured participants' experiences. Results Participants described their daily lives as beset by frequent experiences of distress sometimes worsened by their unhelpful or destructive reactions. With mindfulness practice, they initially reported greater calm, balance, and control. Subsequently they commented on a clearer understanding of themselves and others. Mindfulness was then described as a “mindset” associated with greater confidence and competence and a lessened risk of future distress. Conclusions Participants demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of and engagement with mindfulness principles and practice. Their reported experience aligned well with qualitative research findings in adults and theoretical literature on mindfulness. An encouraging finding was that, with ongoing mindfulness practice and within a relatively short time, participants were able to move beyond improved emotion regulation and gain greater confidence in their ability to manage life challenges.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an 8-week training that is designed to teach participants mindful awareness of the present moment. In randomized clinical trials (RCTs), MBSR has demonstrated efficacy in various conditions including reducing chronic pain-related distress and improving quality of life in healthy individuals. There have, however, been no qualitative studies investigating participants' descriptions of changes experienced over multiple time points during the course of the programme. This qualitative study of an MBSR cohort (N = 8 healthy individuals) in a larger RCT examined participants' daily diary descriptions of their home-practice experiences. The study used a two-part method, combining grounded theory with a close-ended coding approach. The grounded theory analysis revealed that during the trial, all participants, to varying degrees, described moments of distress related to practice; at the end of the course, all participants who completed the training demonstrated greater detail and clarity in their descriptions, improved affect, and the emergence of an observing self. The closed-ended coding schema, carried out to shed light on the development of an observing self, revealed that the emergence of an observing self was not related to the valence of participants' experiential descriptions: even participants whose diaries contained predominantly negative characterizations of their experience throughout the trial were able, by the end of the trial, to demonstrate an observing, witnessing attitude towards their own distress. Progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experiences and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message: This article • Analyses the ways in which participants in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) clinical trial describe their experiences with mindfulness practice. • Carries out qualitative analysis of the ways in which participants' descriptions of home-based meditation practice contained in their practice diaries change over the course of an 8-week MBSR trial. • Demonstrates that the participants who successfully completed the 8-week course show a common developmental trajectory, as each participant used less reactive, judgemental language to describe their home meditative practice-based experiences by the end of the trial, even when, in the case of some participants, that experience was perceived as negative or distressing. • Suggests that progress in MBSR may rely less on the valence of participants' experience and more on the way participants describe and relate to their own inner experience.
Little is known about placebo effects with scientific precision. Poor methodology has confounded our understanding of the magnitude and even the existence of the placebo effect. Investigating placebo effects presents special research challenges including: the design of appropriate controls for studying placebo effects including separating such effects from natural history and regression to the mean, the need for large sample sizes to capture expected small effects, and the need to understand such potential effects from a patient's perspective. This article summarizes the methodology of an ongoing NIH-funded randomized controlled trial aimed at investigating whether the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) exists and whether the magnitude of such an effect can be manipulated to vary in a manner analogous to “dose dependence.” The trial also uses an innovative combination of quantitative and qualitative methods.
Interest in mindfulness as a tool to improve health and well-being has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Limited qualitative research has been conducted on mindfulness and health. This study utilized in-depth interviews to explore the context, perceptions, and experiences of a sub-set of participants engaged in an acceptability study of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) among urban youth. Content analysis revealed that all in-depth interview participants reported experiencing some form of positive benefit and enhanced self-awareness as a result of MBSR program participation. Significant variation in the types and intensity of changes occurring was identified, ranging from a reframing and reduction of daily stressors to transformational shifts in life orientation and well-being. Variations in perceptions of and experiences with mindfulness should be studied in further depth in the context of prospective intervention research, including their potentially differential influence on mental and physical health outcomes.
Evidence that placebo acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain presents a puzzle: how do placebo needles appearing to patients to penetrate the body, but instead sitting on the skin’s surface in the manner of a tactile stimulus, evoke a healing response? Previous accounts of ritual touch healing in which patients often described enhanced touch sensations (including warmth, tingling or flowing sensations) suggest an embodied healing mechanism. In this qualitative study, we asked a subset of patients in a singleblind randomized trial in irritable bowel syndrome to describe their treatment experiences while undergoing placebo treament. Analysis focused on patients’ unprompted descriptions of any enhanced touch sensations (e.g., warmth, tingling) and any significance patients assigned to the sensations. We found in 5/6 cases, patients associated sensations including “warmth” and “tingling” with treatment efficacy. The conclusion offers a “neurophenomenological” account of the placebo effect by considering dynamic effects of attentional filtering on early sensory cortices, possibly underlying the phenomenology of placebo acupuncture.
Psychotherapeutic interventions containing training in mindfulness meditation have been shown to help participants with a variety of somatic and psychological conditions. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a meditation-based psychotherapeutic intervention designed to help reduce the risk of relapse of recurrent depression. There is encouraging early evidence from multi-centre randomized controlled trials. However, little is known of the process by which MBCT may bring therapeutic benefits. This study set out to explore participants' accounts of MBCT in the mental-health context. Seven participants were interviewed in two phases. Interview data from four participants were obtained in the weeks following MBCT. Grounded theory techniques were used to identify several categories that combine to describe the ways in which mental-health difficulties arose as well as their experiences of MBCT. Three further participants who have continued to practise MBCT were interviewed so as to further validate, elucidate and extend these categories. The theory suggested that the preconceptions and expectations of therapy are important influences on later experiences of MBCT. Important areas of therapeutic change ('coming to terms') were identified, including the development of mindfulness skills, an attitude of acceptance and 'living in the moment'. The development of mindfulness skills was seen to hold a key role in the development of change. Generalization of these skills to everyday life was seen as important, and several ways in which this happened, including the use of breathing spaces, were discussed. The study emphasized the role of continued skills practice for participants' therapeutic gains. In addition, several of the concepts and categories offered support to cognitive accounts of mood disorder and the role of MBCT in reducing relapse.