Mind-body modalities, including mind-body skills groups (MBSGs), teach a variety of mind-body techniques and allow for the patient to choose the specific technique that works best for them. In an analysis of adolescent patients with depression in a primary care setting, an MBSG intervention reduced depression symptoms significantly. Full study results have been published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.1 

 “The benefit of programs like MBSGs is teens can tailor the intervention to their own interests and needs. By practicing several mindfulness skills, teens can run with the intervention skill that they enjoy the most,” stated lead study author Matt Aalsma, PhD, in an accompanying press release.2 Approximately 3.5 million US teenagers suffer from depression.3 Current treatments include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, but adherence to medical management is poor, reported the study authors.

To help improve adherence to therapy, the authors proposed providing behavioral health services at the point of care — in the primary care setting.  During the 10-week series, participants (aged 13 to 17 years) were taught a variety of tools and techniques to foster self-awareness and emotional regulation.

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Each weekly session included up to 12 participants and lasted for 90 minutes. During the sessions, participants were taught mind-body skills such as mindfulness and active meditations, including slow, deep breathing, mindful eating, and movement, reported the authors. Other techniques include biofeedback and autogenic training, guided imagery, and self-expression through written words and drawings.

Participants were then asked to complete a survey after the MBSG was completed and then approximately 3 months later. Participants also completed self-reported measures at baseline, postintervention, and at 3 month follow-up. These measures included the Children’s Depression Inventory-2 (CDI-2) for depression, the Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire (SIQ) and the Suicide Ideation Questionnaire-Junior High School version (SIQ-JR) for suicidal ideation, the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale-Adolescents (MAAS-A) for adolescent mindfulness, the Self-Efficacy Questionnaire for Depressed Adolescents (SEQ-DA) for measuring effectiveness in coping with depression, and the Children’s Response Style Questionnaire-Rumination (CRSQ-r) for youth response styles to depressed mood. An additional measure was used to rate feelings of acceptability.

A total of 43 teens were included in the study; the majority were female (79%), Hispanic (67%), and in junior high school (58%). Only 14% of participants attended less than half of sessions, and 86% of participants attended 6 or more sessions. In all, 25% of participants attended every session.

Results of the study found that there was a significant improvement over time in the total CDI-2 score as well as for functional and emotional problems and their subscales of negative mood and/or physical symptoms, negative self-esteem, ineffectiveness, and interpersonal problems. Continuous improvement was seen for both the postintervention time point as well as for follow-up for the total CDI-2 scores. For the other scales and/or subscales there was no significant difference between the postintervention and follow-up time points.

In addition to improved depression, results found a significant improvement postintervention in secondary outcomes of mindfulness, self-efficacy, rumination, and suicidal ideation.

Commenting on the study, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) urged primary care clinicians to look for new, effective ways to help treat adolescents with depression in practice. “Innovative therapies like MBSGs should be explored as potential integrated behavioral health services,” the organization noted. “The adolescents in the study were highly engaged in the intervention and viewed it as an acceptable treatment option in primary care.”2

Disclosure: This study was supported by the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center and the Herbert Simon Family Foundation.


1. Aalsma MC, Jones LD, Staples JK, et al. Mind-body skills groups for adolescents with depression in primary care: a pilot study. J Pediatr Health Care. 2020;34(5):462-469.

2. Worsley J. Pilot study indicates mind-body skills groups could be an effective treatment option for depressed adolescents [news release]. New York, NY: National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) Media Relations; October 12, 2020.

3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Key substance use and mental health indication in the United States: results from the 2018 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. SAMHSA website. August, 2019. Accessed October 22, 2020. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf.

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor