Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jennifer Waltz

Commitee Members

Duncan Campbell, James Caringi


mindfulness, posttraumatic stress disorder, trauma, treatment, meditation, PTSD


University of Montana


Posttraumatic stress disorder results from exposure to a traumatic event that poses threatened death/injury while producing intense fear or helplessness (American Psychiatric Association, 2004). Roughly 8% of the U.S. population suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and approximately one-third of these individuals do not recover despite treatment (American Psychiatric Association, 2004; Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes & Nelson, 1995; Pietrzak, Goldstein, Southwick & Grant, 2011). There has been an integration of mindfulness practice into Western psychotherapy; however, it is still uncertain how to best utilize mindfulness-based interventions in the treatment of PTSD. The purpose of the present student was to explore how individuals with significant PTSD symptoms respond to initial exposure to a mindfulness practice. The study compared individuals with high PTSD symptoms, those with trauma histories, but low symptoms, to those with no trauma histories on responses to doing a mindful-breathing practice using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative methods were used to objectively assess the extent to which a) participants were able to be mindful during the practice, b) participants’ experienced positive and negative reactions to the practice, and c) participants’ view on whether the practice was acceptable or helpful. Qualitative methods were used to explore participants’ experience with initial exposure to mindfulness. Participants wrote about the experience in response to an open-ended prompt and responses were coded. Undergraduate students (N= 214) were recruited from an Introductory Psychology participant pool at a mid-sized university. Results indicated that all three groups had moderately positive, and very minimally negative, reactions to the practice. There were no differences between groups on reactions to the practice, treatment acceptability, and ability to be mindful; however, the high PTSD symptom group reported lower rates of following the mindfulness instructions. The qualitative data collected in this study may help to explain the above finding, but further research is needed to clarify how trauma survivors respond to mindfulness interventions.

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© Copyright 2013 Sarah Lynn Schwarz