Deep Dish - Cultivating mindfulness and compassion among trans youth and their caregivers: Preliminary findings from a pilot study

Thursday, February 9, 2017 -
12:30pm to 1:30pm
Prof. Russ Toomey
McClelland Park Room 402

Transgender adolescents report high levels of compromised mental health compared to those reported in population studies of cisgender adolescents. A growing number of studies suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may reduce internalizing and externalizing problems among adolescents; this coping strategy may be particularly effective for transgender adolescents given that marginalized populations may experience inferiority and shame because of encountered minority stress. Similarly, compassion has been noted in the scientific literature as an important factor in physical and psychological health.  Cognitively-based compassion training (CBCT) is an evidence-based intervention based on a secularized meditation protocol that leads participants through a systematic process of cultivating mindfulness and compassion aimed at improving well-being.  The current study aimed to adapt and test the feasibility and acceptability of CBCT in a sample of transgender youth and their caregiver(s). Transgender youth (n = 5) and their caregiver(s) (n = 7) participated in a 6-week CBCT course and were assessed daily, weekly, and at three-months following the last group session. Adolescents and their caregivers reported decreases in depressive symptoms, and increases in mindfulness and self-compassion. Moreover, increases in parent-adolescent relationship warmth were reported by adolescents and their caregivers. Taken together, these findings provide preliminary evidence that a compassion-based intervention can promote healthy behaviors and outcomes.

Dr. Russ Toomey is an Assistant Professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona. His research identifies malleable contextual (e.g., family, school) and individual-level (e.g., identity processes) factors that contribute to and mitigate health disparities experienced by marginalized adolescents in the United States. His examines these relationships with explicit attention to the minority-specific stressors of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination that contribute to the disparate health outcomes, and the culturally relevant protective factors that buffer these associations. His work attends to how the amalgamation of individuals’ multiple marginalized identities contributes to their contextual experiences, health, and well-being.

Questions for Prof. Toomey? toomey[at]