July 24, 2012 - A new study shows that a therapeutic intervention called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) appears to improve the mental and physical health of adolescents in foster care. CBCT is a tool that provides strategies for people to develop more compassionate attitudes toward themselves and others.
"The beneficial effects of CBCT on anxiety and feelings of hopelessness suggest that this intervention may provide immediate benefit to foster children," says Charles Raison, MD, associate professor with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson and Barry and Janet Lang Associate Professor of Integrative Mental Health with the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.
"We are even more encouraged by the finding that CBCT reduced levels of inflammation," says Dr. Raison. "Our hope is that CBCT may help contribute to the long-term health and well-being of foster care children, not only during childhood, but also as they move into their adult years."
The study, recently published online in the journals Psychoneuroendocrinology and Child and Family Studies, was conducted by researchers with Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Raison previously was with Emory and is corresponding author of the study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
‚ÄúChildren with early-life adversity tend to have elevated levels of inflammation across their lifespan,‚Äù explains Thaddeus Pace, PhD, lead author on the paper in Psychoneuroendocrinology, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory. "Inflammation is known to play a fundamental role in the development of a number of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and depression."
Children in foster care have a high prevalence of trauma in their lives - sexual abuse, parental neglect, family violence, homelessness, exposure to drugs, separation from biological family and some are regularly moved from one place to another. The study finds that adolescents who practiced CBCT showed reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP), reduced anxiety and increased feelings of hopefulness. The more the study participants practiced, the greater the improvement observed in these measures.
CBCT is a multi-week program developed at Emory University by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, one of the study's co-authors. Although derived from Tibetan Buddhist teachings on compassion, the CBCT program has been designed to be completely secular in nature.
More information about the study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS), is available at http://news.emory.edu/stories/2012/07/pace_fostercare_CBCT_2012.
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