The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy between Clients and Therapists Practicing
Although a few studies have tested whether therapist mindfulness has an impact on psychotherapy treatment outcomes, no studies have examined whether having clients and therapists practice mindfulness together at the start of treatment can lead to in session benefits. The main goal of this study was to investigate the effects of therapists and clients jointly engaging in a brief mindfulness exercise together at the start of their therapy sessions. Specifically, this study tested whether joint engagement in a mindfulness exercise could lead to more positive ratings of therapist presence and more positive ratings of the treatment sessions compared to a control condition. A total of 16 student therapists and 39 clients agreed to participate in this study. All sessions (N = 157) conducted by the participating therapists with their participating clients during the data collection period (six months) were randomized to either begin with a 5-minute mindfulness centering exercise (experimental condition) or 5-minutes of psycho-education (control condition). At the end of all included sessions, regardless of the condition, therapists privately completed a measure of their presence during the session (Therapist Presence Inventory [TPI] – Therapist form) and a rating of session depth and smoothness using the Session Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ). The data were analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) with the condition as a session level (Level 1) predictor of the outcomes (TPI-T, SEQ-Depth Therapist, SEQ-Smoothness Therapist, TPI-C, SEQ-Depth Client, SEQ-Smoothness Client, SEQ Arousal Client, SEQ Positivity Client, and SRS, and sessions nested within clients (Level 2), and clients nested within therapists (Level 3). Contrary to our hypotheses, the findings did not provide any evidence that clients and therapists experienced sessions more positively when they started the session with a mindfulness exercise compared to starting the session with psycho-education. In addition, further data analyses suggest that when the therapist, client, and session predictors were held constant, the difference between the conditions on the clients’ and therapists’ ratings on all outcome measures was still not significant. Methodological limitations and future directions are discussed.
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