Can mindfulness help mothers of severely disabled children?
In a recent study by Dykens et al. (2014), researchers compared the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Positive Adult Development therapies in a sample of mothers with children with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a type of mindfulness practice that utilizes deep breathing exercises, self-observation without self-evaluation, and meditation techniques to reduce stress. Positive Adult Development is a positive psychology practice in which activities focus on gratitude and patience to combat the overwhelming feelings of guilt, worry, and pessimism. Both treatments were aimed at reducing anxiety and depression disorders in the participants by decreasing the stress they experienced daily.
Participants significantly improved over the course of the study and experienced decreases in stress, depression, and anxiety. Their sleep and life satisfaction significantly improved as well. The mothers in the mindfulness group improved more in all categories when compared to mothers in the positive psychology group. However, researchers suggest that both the mindfulness and positive psychology techniques used should be combined in therapy sessions to obtain the best results for the patient.
Dykens, E. M., Fisher, M. H., Taylor, J. L., Lambert, W., & Miodrag, N. (2014) Reducing distress in mothers of children with autism and other disabilities: A randomized trial. Pediatrics. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-3164