Skip to main content

Benefits of an Arts-Based Mindfulness Group Intervention for Vulnerable Children

Abstract

We discuss qualitative and quantitative research findings from a study exploring the benefits and effectiveness of a 12-week arts-based mindfulness group program for vulnerable children (children who were involved with the child welfare or mental health systems and experienced a variety of challenges). Using post-group individual interviews with children/guardians, and pre and post-intervention self-report data (using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and the Resiliency Scales for Children and Adolescents), we hypothesized that children would have improved resilience and self-concept after having completed the program. Interpretive thematic qualitative analysis was conducted using transcribed interview data collected from 47 children (30 girls and 17 boys with a mean age of 10.38 years). The perceived benefits of participating in the group included improved (a) emotion regulation, (b) mood, (c) coping/social skills, (d) confidence and self-esteem, (e) empathy, and (f) ability to pay attention and focus. The quantitative analysis used self-report data from 77 children (43 girls and 34 boys with a mean age of 10.34 years). A repeated measures MANOVA was used to examine changes across the intervention period. Our hypothesis that children would have better scores on self-concept after having completed the program was partially supported and this result reflected the perceived improvements derived from the qualitative analysis. The hypothesis that resilience would improve post-group was not supported. Using these promising results, we discuss how strengths-based and arts-based mindfulness group methods may be effective in engaging vulnerable children in a beneficial helping process.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Achenbach, T., & Rescorla, L. (2001). Manual for ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Adams, R., Dominelli, L., & Payne, M. (2009). Critical practice in social work (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2012). Thematic analysis. In H. Cooper (Ed.), APA handbook of research methods in psychology: Research designs (Vol. 2, pp. 57–71). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Broderick, P., & Jennings, P. (2012). Mindfulness for adolescents: A promising approach to supporting emotion regulation and preventing risky behavior. New Directions for Youth Development, 136, 111–126. doi:10.1002/yd.20042.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Butler, R. J., & Gasson, S. L. (2005). Self-esteem/self-concept scales for children and adolescents: A review. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 10, 190–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Butler, L., Little, L., & Grimard, A. (2009). Research challenges: Implementing standardized outcome measures in a decentralized, community-based residential treatment program. Child & Youth Care Forum, 38, 75–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Ciarrochi, J., Kashdan, T., Leeson, P., Heaven, P., & Jordan, C. (2011). On being aware and accepting: A one-year longitudinal study into adolescent well-being. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 695–703. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2010.09.003.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Coholic, D. (2010). Arts activities for children and young people in need: Helping children to develop mindfulness, spiritual awareness and self-esteem. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Coholic, D. (2011). Exploring the feasibility and benefits of arts-based mindfulness-based practices with young people in need: Aiming to improve aspects of self-awareness and resilience. Child & Youth Care Forum, 40(4), 303–317.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Coholic, D. (2014). Facilitating mindfulness using arts-based methods and a holistic strengths-based perspective. In M. S. Boone (Ed.), Mindfulness and acceptance in social work: Evidence-based interventions and emerging applications (pp. 145–162). Oakland, CA: Context Press, New Harbinger Publications Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Coholic, D., Eys, M., & Lougheed, S. (2012a). Investigating the effectiveness of an arts-based and mindfulness-based group program for the improvement of resilience in children in need. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 833–844. doi:10.1007/s10826-011-9544-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Coholic, D., Fraser, M., Robinson, B., & Lougheed, S. (2012b). Promoting resilience within child protection: The suitability of arts-based and experiential group programs for children-in-care. Social Work with Groups, 35(4), 345–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Coholic, D., Lougheed, S., & Cadell, S. (2009a). Exploring the helpfulness of arts-based methods with children living in foster care. Traumatology, 15(3), 64–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Coholic, D., Lougheed, S., & LeBreton, J. (2009b). The helpfulness of holistic arts-based group work with children living in foster care. Social Work with Groups, 32(1), 29–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Dozier, M., Peloso, E., Lindhiem, O., Gordon, M. K., Manni, M., Sepulveda, S., … Levine, S. (2006). Developing evidence-based interventions for foster children: An example of a randomized clinical trial with infants and toddlers. Journal of Social Issues, 62(4), 767–785.

  16. Driessnack, M., & Furukawa, R. (2012). Arts-based data collection techniques used in chld research. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 17, 3–9.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Feagans Gould, L., Dariotis, J., Mendelson, T., & Greenberg, M. T. (2012). A school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth: Exploring moderators of intervention effects. Journal of Community Psychology, 40(8), 968–982.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Finn, C. (2003). Helping students cope with loss: Incorporating art into group counseling. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 28(2), 155–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Flisher, A. J., Kramenr, R. A., Hoven, C. W., Greenwald, S., Bird, H. R., Canino, G., … Moore, R. E. (1997). Psychosocial characteristics of physically abused children and adolescents. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 123–131.

  20. Flook, L., Smalley, S., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., … Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26, 70–95.

  21. Goodman, T. (2005). Working with children: Beginner’s mind. In C. Germer, R. Siegel, & P. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 197–219). New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Greco, L., Baer, R., & Smith, G. T. (2011). Assessing mindfulness in chidren and adolescents: Development and validation of the child and adolescent mindfulness measure (CAMM). Psychological Assessment, 23(3), 606–614.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Greenberg, M. T., & Harris, A. R. (2012). Nurturing mindfulness in children and youth: Current state of research. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 161–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Harnett, P. H., & Dawe, S. (2012). Review: The contribution of mindfulness-based therapies for children and families and proposed conceptual integration. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 17(4), 195–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jackson, E., Whitehead, J., & Wigford, A. (2010). In an EBD popuation do looked after children have specific needs related to resilience, self-perception and attainment? Educational Psychology in Practice, 26, 69–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. James, B. (1989). Treating traumatized children: New insights and creative interventions. Massachusetts: Lexington.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delta.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Klatt, M., Harpster, K., Browne, E., White, S., & Case-Smith, J. (2013). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes for move-into-learning: An arts-based mindfulness classroom intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, 8(3), 233–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lambert, M. J. (2005). Early response in psychotherapy: Further evidence for the importance of common factors rather than “placebo effects”. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61, 855–869.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Laursen, E. K., & Oliver, V. (2003). Recasting problems as potentials in group work. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 12(1), 46–48.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lawlor, M., Schonert-Reichl, K., Gadermann, A., & Zumbo, B. (2013). A validation study of the mindful attention awareness scale adapted for children. Mindfulness,. doi:10.1007/s12671-013-0228-4.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Leckey, J. (2011). The therapeutic effectiveness of creative activities on mental well-being: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 18, 501–509.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Lee, J., Semple, R., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Results of a pilot study. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 22(1), 15–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Mabanglo, M. (2010). Trauma and the effects of violence exposure and abuse on children: A review of the literature. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 72, 231–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Metz, S., Frank, J., Reibel, D., Cantrell, T., Sanders, R., & Broderick, P. (2013). The effectiveness of the learning to breathe program on adolescent emotion regulation. Research in Human Development, 10, 252–272. doi:10.1080/15427609.2013.818488.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Napoli, M. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99–125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K., Lawlor, M., & Thomson, K. (2012). Mindfulness and inhibitory control in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32, 565–588. doi:10.1177/0272431611403741.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Olson-McBride, L., & Page, T. (2012). Song to self: Promoting a therapeutic dialogue with high-risk youths through poetry and popular music. Social Work with Groups, 35, 124–137. doi:10.1080/01609513.2011.603117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. O’Reilly, J., & Peterson, C. (2015). Maltreatment and advanced theory of mind developent in school-aged children. Journal of Family Violence, 30, 93–102. doi:10.1007/s10896-014-9647-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Ornaghi, V., & Grazzani, I. (2013). The relationship between emotional-state language and emotion understanding: A study with school-age children. Cognition and Emotion, 27(2), 356–366.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Ott, M. J. (2002). Mindfulness meditation in pediatric clinical practice. Pediatric Nursing, 28(5), 487–490.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Pagani, L., Japel, C., Vaillancourt, T., Cote, S., & Tremblay, R. (2008). Links between life course trajectories of family dysfunction and anxiety during middle childhood. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 41–53.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Piers, E. V., Harris, D., & Herzberg, D. (2005). Piers-Harris children’s self-concept scale (2nd ed.). USA: Western Psychological Services.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Prince-Embury, S. (2008). The resiliency scales for children and adolescents, psychological symptoms, and clinical status in adolescents. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 41–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Prince-Embury, S. (2010). Psychometric properties of the Resiliency scales for children and adolescents and use for youth with psychiatric disorders. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 28, 291–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Prince-Embury, S., & Courville, T. (2008a). Comparison of one-, two-, and three-factor models of personal resiliency using the resiliency scales for children and adolescents. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 11–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Prince-Embury, S., & Courville, T. (2008b). Measurement invariance of the resiliency scales for children and adolescents with respect to sex and age cohorts. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 26–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Racusin, R., Maerlender, A., Sengupta, A., Isquith, P., & Straus, M. (2005). Psychosocial treatment of children in foster care: A review. Community Mental Health Journal, 41(2), 199–221.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Rempel, K. D. (2012). Mindfulness for children and youth: A review of the literature with an argument for school-based implementation. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 46(3), 201–220.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Saleebey, D. (2011). Some basic ideas about the strengths perspective. In F. Turner (Ed.), Social work treatment: Interlocking theoretical approaches (5th ed., pp. 477–485). New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Saracho, O. (2014). Theory of mind: Children’s understanding of mental states. Early Child Development and Care, 184(6), 949–961.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Schonert-Reichl, K., & Lawlor, M. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1, 137–151.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Segal, Z., Williams, J., & Teasdale, J. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Semple, R., & Lee, J. (2011). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for anxious children. Oakland. CA: New Harbinger Publications Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Semple, R., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 218–229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Semple, R., Reid, E., & Miller, L. (2005). Treating anxiety with mindfulness: An open trial of mindfulness training for anxious children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 19(4), 379–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Sibinga, E., Perry-Parrish, C., Thorpe, K., Mika, M., & Ellen, J. (2014). A small mixed-method RCT of mindfulness instruction for urban youth. Explore, 10(3), 180–186.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Stellwagen, K., & Kerig, P. (2013). Dark triad personality traits and theory of mind among school-age children. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 123–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Thompson, M., & Gauntlett-Gilbert, J. (2008). Mindfulness with children and adolescents: Effective clinical application. Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 13(3), 396–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Formsma, A., de Bruin, E., & Bogels, S. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training on behavioral problems and attentional functioning in adolescents with ADHD. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 775–787. doi:10.1007/s10826-011-9531-7.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. van de Weijer-Bergsma, E., Langenberg, G., Brandsma, R., Oort, F., & Bogels, S. (2014). The effectiveness of a school-based mindfulness training as a program to prevent stress in elementary school children. Mindfulness, 5, 238–248. doi:10.1007/sl2671-012-0171-9.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Wall, R. B. (2005). Tai chi and mindfulness-based stress reduction in a Boston public middle school. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4), 230–237.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Whitaker, D. (1975). Some conditions for effective work with groups. British Journal of Social Work, 5(4), 421–439.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Woodruff, K., & Lee, B. (2011). Identifying and predicting problem behavior trajectories among pre-school children investigated for child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse and Neglect, 35, 491–503.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Sick Kids Foundation. We would like to acknowledge the two organizations that cooperated with this study: The Children’s Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin, and the Child and Family Centre.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Diana A. Coholic.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Coholic, D.A., Eys, M. Benefits of an Arts-Based Mindfulness Group Intervention for Vulnerable Children. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 33, 1–13 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-015-0431-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Arts-based
  • Mindfulness
  • Vulnerable children
  • Group work
  • Strengths-based