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Mindfulness Training Improves Attentional Task Performance in Incarcerated Youth: A Group Randomized Controlled Intervention Trial

NCJ Number
Frontiers in Psychology Volume: 4 Issue: 792 Dated: 2013 Pages: 1-10
Noelle R. Leonard; Amishi P. Jha; Bethany Casarjian; Merissa Goolsarran ; Cristina Garcia; Charles M. Cleland; Marya V. Gwadz ; Zohar Massey
Date Published
10 pages

This paper examines whether a group-based, multisession cognitive behavioral therapy and MT resulted in improved attentional capabilities among adolescents incarcerated in a high-stress, high-security correctional facility in comparison to an active control intervention.


 The authors report on their investigation of the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training (CBT/MT) on attentional task performance in incarcerated adolescents. They hypothesized that CBT/MT may mitigate the deleterious effects of high stress and protect against degradation in attention over the high-stress interval of incarceration. Using a quasi-experimental, group randomized controlled trial design, we randomly assigned dormitories of incarcerated youth, ages 16–18, to a CBT/MT intervention (youth n = 147) or an active control intervention (youth n = 117). Both arms received approximately 750 minutes of intervention in a small-group setting over a three- to five-week period. Youth in the CBT/MT arm also logged the amount of out-of-session time spent practicing MT exercises. The Attention Network Test was used to index attentional task performance at baseline and four months post-baseline. Overall, task performance degraded over time in all participants. The magnitude of performance degradation was significantly less in the CBT/MT, compared to the control arm. Further, within the CBT/MT arm, performance degraded over time in those with no practice time outside of class, but remained stable over time in those who practiced mindfulness exercises outside of the session meetings. Thus, these findings suggest that sufficient CBT/MT practice may protect against functional attentional impairments associated with high-stress intervals. Publisher Abstract Provided