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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and helpfulness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) for the treatment of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in a sample of nonreferred children. Twenty-five children, ages 9 to 12, participated in the 12-week intervention. Assessments were conducted at baseline and posttreatment. Open trial analyses found preliminary support for MBCT-C as helpful in reducing internalizing and externalizing symptoms within subjects on the parent report measure. The high attendance rate (Intent-to-Treat sample, 78%; Completer sample, 94%), high retention rate (68%), and positive ratings on program evaluations supported treatment feasibility and acceptability. Overall, this pilot study offers feasibility and acceptability data for MBCT-C as a potential treatment for internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children. Further research is needed to test the efficacy of the intervention with a larger sample of children who meet diagnostic criteria for clinical disorders.
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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) is a manualized group psychotherapy for children ages 9–13 years old, which was developed specifically to increase social-emotional resiliency through the enhancement of mindful attention. Program development is described along with results of the initial randomized controlled trial. We tested the hypotheses that children randomized to participate in MBCT-C would show greater reductions in (a) attention problems, (b) anxiety symptoms, and (c) behavior problems than wait-listed age and gender-matched controls. Participants were boys and girls aged 9–13 (N = 25), mostly from low-income, inner-city households. Twenty-one of 25 children were ethnic minorities. A randomized cross-lagged design provided a wait-listed control group, a second trial of MBCT-C, and a 3-month follow-up of children who completed the first trial. Measures included the Child Behavior Checklist, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, and Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children. Participants who completed the program showed fewer attention problems than wait-listed controls and those improvements were maintained at three months following the intervention [F (1, 1, 18) = 5.965, p = .025, Cohen’s d = .42]. A strong relationship was found between attention problems and behavior problems (r = .678, p < .01). Reductions in attention problems accounted for 46% of the variance of changes in behavior problems, although attention changes proved to be a non-significant mediator of behavior problems (p = .053). Significant reductions in anxiety symptoms and behavior problems were found for those children who reported clinically elevated levels of anxiety at pretest (n = 6). Results show that MBCT-C is a promising intervention for attention and behavior problems, and may reduce childhood anxiety symptoms.
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This study is an open clinical trial that examined the feasibility and acceptability of a mindfulness training program for anxious children. We based this pilot initiative on a cognitively oriented model, which suggests that, since impaired attention is a core symptom of anxiety, enhancing self-management of attention should effect reductions in anxiety. Mindfulness practices are essentially attention enhancing techniques that have shown promise as clinical treatments for adult anxiety and depression (Baer, 2003). However, little research explores the potential benefits of mindfulness to treat anxious children. The present study provided preliminary support for our model of treating childhood anxiety with mindfulness. A 6-week trial was conducted with five anxious children aged 7 to 8 years old. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness can be taught to children and holds promise as an intervention for anxiety symptoms. Results suggest that clinical improvements may be related to initial levels of attention.