Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Effects of Mindfulness-Based versus Interpersonal Process Group Intervention on Psychological Well-Being with a Clinical University Population

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Effects of Mindfulness-Based versus Interpersonal Process Group Intervention on Psychological Well-Being with a Clinical University Population

Article excerpt

This quasi-experimental study compared a group mindfulness-based intervention (MI) with an interpersonal process (IP) group intervention and a no-treatment (NT) control condition in reducing psychological distress among 112 students at 2 universities. At postintervention, IP and MI group participants exhibited significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and interpersonal problems compared with the NT group. At the 6-month follow-up, only MI participants maintained the reduction in anxiety, depression, and academic problems; conversely, only IP participants maintained reductions in interpersonal problems.

Keywords: mindfulness, college students


In the past 20 years, mindfulness training, also known as mindfulness-based intervention (MI), has been recognized as a promising clinical intervention (e.g., Carmody & Baer, 2008). MI encourages participants to become more aware of their bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts in a nonjudgmental and accepting manner through incorporating a variety of mindfulness exercises into daily life. Much research now supports the effectiveness of group-based MI in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression among populations with a range of medical and psychological problems (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 2003). One major limitation of the research to date is the lack of published trials that compare group MI with other empirically supported group treatments. Accordingly, one goal of the current study was to compare group MI with a widely used group intervention, specifically, an interpersonal process (IP) group intervention that focuses on feedback regarding interpersonal dynamics and communication.

Given the body of research that supports the effectiveness of group MI in general clinical populations, there are important reasons for investigating its application at university counseling centers (UCCs). First, MI has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression among general clinical populations (e.g., Kabat-Zinn, 2003), and these are two presenting problems that are frequently reported by students seeking services at UCCs (Benton, Robertson, Tseng, Newton, & Benton, 2003). Second, in light of the dramatic increase in rates of mental health problems among student populations and the demand for UCC services, coupled with rising fiscal constraints in higher education, group counseling formats may provide an effective alternative to individual counseling for many students (Kitzrow, 2003). Finally, the fact that group MI has become increasingly popular among nonclinical populations suggests that it may also be less stigmatized and therefore more attractive to university students.

In her meta-analysis of clinical trials that investigated the effectiveness of MI, Baer (2003) noted that all the studies that included control conditions used either treatment-as-usual or wait-list controls. Furthermore, treatment as usual consisted of medical approaches or unspecified mental health approaches, making it difficult to compare MI with other specific psychological treatments. In another meta-analysis, Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, and Walach (2004) found MI to be more effective in reducing psychological distress when compared with a variety of active control interventions, such as social support and relaxation. Thus, when nonspecific effects of treatment (e.g., social support and expectancy effects) are controlled for, MI is more effective in improving outcomes. However, it remains to be seen if MI is more effective when compared with an intervention that is purported to have an active ingredient above and beyond the nonspecific effects. Toneatto and Nguyen (2007) found that only half of the studies of the effects of MI they reviewed reported a statistically significant reduction in anxiety or depression, and none included a therapeutic control group. It is interesting to note that in the two studies in which an MI group treatment and a therapeutic control treatment (phototherapy for psoriasis or outpatient psychotherapy) were compared, there was no more reduction in depression or anxiety for participants in the MI groups. …

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