Research by Karen Bluth, PhD, an instructor in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation’s Program on Integrative Medicine, is being featured in several mainstream magazines and online blogs.
Dr. Bluth is co-investigator of a grant from the The John Rex Endowment to evaluate the feasibility of implementing two evidence-based mindfulness programs, in partnership with Southeast Raleigh Assembly (SERA). The project’s purpose is to evaluate the feasibility of implementing two evidence-based programs to improve positive mental health outcomes in Southeast Raleigh youth: a mindfulness training course, Learning to Breathe (L2B) for youth, as well as a companion Mindful Self-Compassion program for their adult caregivers including parents/guardians, SERA staff, and community stakeholders.
“Adolescence is tough not just for the teens themselves, but for their caregivers as well,” Dr. Bluth notes. “Mindful self-compassion teaches adults the tools to take care of themselves while going through this potentially trying period with their teens. For at-risk teens, teaching mindfulness skills will provide them with tools to strengthen emotional regulation and resilience. Many caregivers of at-risk teens are tremendously hardworking and self-sacrificing, and mindful self-compassion teaches them that they can take care of themselves while taking care of others; many have spent much of their lives providing for others and neglecting their own needs.”
Although related, mindfulness and self-compassion are distinctly different constructs, and the techniques and tools taught are somewhat different.
“Mindfulness is about bringing awareness and acceptance to our moment-to-moment experiences, and self-compassion is about being kind to ourselves in the midst of our struggles – in other words, dropping the self-criticism and self-judgment,” Dr. Bluth observes. “As adolescence is often a time of tremendous self-criticism, these tools are particularly applicable during this period. We need mindfulness to be aware that we’re suffering so that we can be self-compassionate. And mindfulness practice often leads to self-compassion eventually. However, in teaching these techniques, self-compassion practice involves more guided meditations and in-the-moment practices.”
The teen mindful self-compassion course (Making Friends With Yourself) involves art, music, and movement practices as well.
- In one of the articles published by greatergood.berkeley.edu, Dr. Bluth offers tips, learned from her students, for teaching mindfulness to at-risk teens.
- Another article describes how self-compassion can improve well-being in teens.
- Additionally, a popular blog describes how and why at-risk teens are highly receptive to mindfulness classes.
- An article from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine discusses her research further, including implications for other populations.
- Dr. Bluth’s research into the benefits of mindfulness for troubled teens also was recently mentioned in a research roundup from mindful.org.
“I find it tremendously rewarding teaching mindfulness and self-compassion to teens,” says Dr. Bluth. “Over the eight-week course there is a perceptible shift in their understanding and ways of dealing with their daily stressors and with themselves. For example, after taking the mindful self-compassion class, one student talked about how much life had improved: ‘not necessarily the situations, but the ways I can handle it.’ “