, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 343–353 | Cite as

Introducing Mindfulness as a Self-Care and Clinical Training Strategy for Beginning Social Work Students

  • Annemarie GockelEmail author
  • David Burton
  • Susan James
  • Ellen Bryer


Mindfulness training is increasingly being recommended as a means of fostering clinical skill development as well as stress reduction among trainees in the helping professions. However, existing mindfulness training protocols are often lengthy, making it challenging to integrate them into standard curricula, and mindfulness-based interventions have not yet been adapted to address clinical training goals. We conducted a mixed-methods study to investigate the effects of integrating a small dose of mindfulness training—only 10 min per session—into a clinical interviewing class with a new population, namely beginning social work students. Results demonstrated that students valued the training, saw it as relevant to their role as a clinical practitioner, and continued to draw on the training once they transitioned to their work with clients in the field. Students in the intervention group reported significant changes in counseling self-efficacy, but not in well-being in comparison to a nonrandomized cohort control group at posttest. Students’ long-term engagement in mindfulness practice at program entry was correlated with their degree of improvement in counseling self-efficacy over the course of the training. The results of this study suggest that even small doses of mindfulness training that do not appreciably alter students’ well-being may nevertheless play a role in fostering clinical skill development. Student responses to open-ended questions in the intervention group revealed that they drew on mindfulness to increase their ability to be present, open, and emotionally available and responsive to their clients in session. Students identified mindfulness as key to their clinical learning process.


Mindfulness training Counseling Clinical training Social work students 



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Brown Clinical Research Institute at the Smith College School for Social Work in support of this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annemarie Gockel
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Burton
    • 1
  • Susan James
    • 2
  • Ellen Bryer
    • 1
  1. 1.School for Social WorkSmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, and Special EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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