Mindfulness Taught in Person or Online Improves Psychological Well-Being
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The practice of a face-to-face or an online MBSR course reduces general psychological distress regardless of the course modality.” – Tomás Esteban Sard-Peck
Mindfulness training has been shown to improve health and well-being in healthy individuals. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a trained teacher. The participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.
As an alternative, training over the internet has been developed. This has tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of internet training versus live instruction in reducing stress and improving psychological well-being.
In today’s Research News article “Comparing the Effectiveness of Virtual and In-Person Delivery of Mindfulness-Based Skills Within Healthcare Curriculums.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9043883/ ) Hoover and colleagues recruited students studying to become physicians assistants. They received either no treatment or a 5 session mindfulness training delivered either in person or virtually. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, decentering, flexibility, perceived stress, and satisfaction with life.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the not-treatment group both groups that received mindfulness training had significant increases in mindfulness, psychological flexibility, and satisfaction with life and significant decreases in perceived stress. Hence, mindfulness training, regardless of whether it is delivered in person or virtually, improves the psychological well-being of students. This is important as virtual delivery of mindfulness training is much more convenient for busy, stressed students.
In person and virtual mindfulness training produces equivalent improvement in psychological health.
“Mindfulness training programs were proven to be effective in improving well-being and reducing perceived stress in several populations (especially those prone to burnout) and conditions. These effects were also found in online training.” – Francesco Bossi
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Hoover, E. B., Butaney, B., Bernard, K., Coplan, B., LeLacheur, S., Straker, H., Carr, C., Blesse-Hampton, L., Naidu, A., & LaRue, A. (2022). Comparing the Effectiveness of Virtual and In-Person Delivery of Mindfulness-Based Skills Within Healthcare Curriculums. Medical science educator, 1–14. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-022-01554-5
To promote well-being, healthcare education programs have incorporated mindfulness-based skills and principles into existing curriculums. Pandemic-related restrictions have compelled programs to deliver content virtually. Study objectives were to determine (1) whether teaching mindfulness-based skills within physician assistant (PA) programs can promote well-being and (2) whether delivery type (virtual vs. in-person) can impact the effectiveness.
During this 2-year study, a brief mindfulness-based curriculum was delivered to incoming first-year students at six PA programs, while students at two programs served as controls. The curriculum was delivered in-person in year one and virtually in year two. Validated pre- and post-test survey items assessed mindfulness (decentering ability, present moment attention and awareness, and psychological flexibility) and well-being (perceived stress and life satisfaction).
As expected, coping abilities and well-being were adversely impacted by educational demands. The mindfulness-based curriculum intervention was effective in increasing mindfulness and life satisfaction, while decreasing perceived stress when delivered in-person. Virtual curricular delivery was effective in decreasing perceived stress but not improving life satisfaction. Over half of the participants receiving the curriculum reported positive changes on mindfulness measures with approximately 14–38% reporting a change of greater than one standard deviation. Changes on mindfulness measures explained 30–38% of the reported changes in perceived stress and 22–26% of the changes in life satisfaction. Therefore, the mindfulness curriculum demonstrated statistically significant improvements in measures of mindfulness and mitigated declines in life satisfaction and perceived stress.
Mindfulness-based skills effectively taught in-person or virtually within PA programs successfully promote well-being.