Mindfulness helps psychologists deal with uncertainty


The stress of professional clinical psychology training can be intense. Research has shown that those in training have greater negative psychological outcomes associated specifically with a low tolerance for uncertainty. The more aversive reactions to uncertainty increases the risk of professional burnout. Researchers are investigating how mindfulness and self-compassion can be leveraged to support professional psychology trainees’ tolerance of uncertainty in their training and beyond into their professional work. 

The Study

Postgraduate psychology students enrolled in a six-week mindfulness program as a part of their training curriculum. Their training consisted of psychoeducation and experiential learning exercises in which they learned mindfulness and self-compassion techniques. A group of 98 students participated in the study and completed measures of mindfulness, self-compassion, and tolerance for uncertainty before and after the six-week mindfulness course. 

The Results

Following the mindfulness training, participants self-reported significant increases in facets of mindfulness including non-judging, non-reacting, observing, and separately self-compassion. The participants also self-reported decreases in uncertainty reluctance to disclose and uncertainty stress, two facets of tolerance to uncertainty. In particular, the study showed how changes in the mindfulness facets of non-judging and non-reacting had the largest effect on uncertainty and reluctance to disclose. These results highlight an important emerging consideration to how to best protect psychology trainees against uncertainty in clinical work by bolstering mindfulness and self-compassion. With such additional socioemotional training in their curriculum, students might be encouraged to seek additional support with their uncertainty of their clinical work. Mindfulness and self-compassion might become standard in the curriculum of  psychology students’ training and later a valuable asset in their professional work. 

Read the full study here.

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