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Inner Resources for Survival: Integrating Interpersonal Psychotherapy with Spiritual Visualization with Homeless Youth

Abstract

Homeless youth have particular need to develop inner resources to confront the stress, abusive environment of street life, and the paucity of external resources. Research suggests that treatment supporting spiritual awareness and growth may create a foundation for coping, relationships, and negotiating styles to mitigate distress. The current pilot study tests the feasibility, acceptability, and helpfulness of an interpersonal spiritual group psychotherapy, interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) integrated with spiritual visualization (SV), offered through a homeless shelter, toward improving interpersonal coping and ameliorating symptoms of depression, distress, and anxiety in homeless youth. An exploratory pilot of integrative group psychotherapy (IPT + SV) for homeless young adults was conducted in a New York City on the residential floor of a shelter-based transitional living program. Thirteen young adult men (mean age 20.3 years, SD = 1.06) participated in a weekly evening psychotherapy group (55 % African-American, 18 % biracial, 18 % Hispanic, 9 % Caucasian). Measures of psychological functioning were assessed at pre-intervention and post-intervention using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9, GAD-7), and the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP-32). A semi-structured exit interview and a treatment satisfaction questionnaire were also employed to assess acceptability following treatment. Among homeless young adults to participate in the group treatment, significant decreases in symptoms of general distress and depression were found between baseline and termination of treatment, and at the level of a trend, improvement in overall interpersonal functioning and levels of general anxiety. High utilization and treatment satisfaction showed the intervention to be both feasible and acceptable. Offered as an adjunct to the services-as-usual model at homeless shelters serving young adults, interpersonal psychotherapy with spiritual visualization (IPT + SV) in group appears to be a feasible and potentially useful treatment option for promoting improved mental health.

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Notes

  1. In this article, we synthesize findings across studies into a discussion of “homeless youth” to refer to unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 (Toro et al. 2007).

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Acknowledgments

Research presented herein was conducted within the Youth Rising Program, funded by generous donations from Goldman Sachs Gives.

Conflict of interest

In the past 3 years, one of the authors has received funding from Goldman Sachs Gives, Oxford University Press, and St. Martins Press. The study was approved by Institutional Review Boards at Teachers College, Columbia University (12-008). All data were collected intermittently between March 5, 2012, and July 15, 2012.

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Mastropieri, B., Schussel, L., Forbes, D. et al. Inner Resources for Survival: Integrating Interpersonal Psychotherapy with Spiritual Visualization with Homeless Youth. J Relig Health 54, 903–921 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-015-0044-3

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Keywords

  • Homeless young adults
  • Group psychotherapy
  • Mental health
  • Mindfulness
  • Spiritual visualization