— Christopher Germer, PhD
Adolescence is a time of change and growth. It is the period of life reserved for rebellion and self-discovery, but as the demands in life increase for teens, this time is often fraught with confusion, anxiety or depression. For many teens these challenges lead to disconnection and isolation.
To support teens in coping more effectively with the ongoing challenges of their day-to-day life, Karen Bluth, Ph.D., and Lorraine Hobbes, M.A., co-created Making Friends With Yourself (MFY), an empirically-supported, 8-week program designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion in teens. It was adapted from the original Mindful Self-Compassion program for adults and is endorsed by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.
MFY teaches core principles and practices that enable teens to respond to the challenges of these critical years with kindness and self-compassion.
Following in the footsteps of the adult MSC program, the teen adaptation is rooted in the three key components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindful, balanced awareness. These elements serve to open the hearts of teens to their own suffering so they can learn to give themselves what they truly need, recognize that they are not alone in their suffering, and encourage an open-minded acceptance of the struggle they are facing.
In this 8-week long course, which meets weekly for 1.75 hours, teens engage in developmentally appropriate activities and carefully crafted practices and meditations, which provide them with the opportunity to learn how to navigate the emotional ups and downs of life with greater ease. Backed by research, findings indicate increases in emotional well-being and greater resilience after taking the course.
Two preliminary research studies on this program have now been published. In the first pilot study (Bluth, Gaylord, Campo, Mullarkey & Hobbs 2016 MFY), findings indicated decreases in depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affect after the 6-session class. Findings in the second pilot study (Bluth & Eisenlohr-Moul 2017) demonstrated decreases in stress, and increases in resilience, positive risk-taking (willingness to take on new challenges) and gratitude after the course was over. Further, a within-person analysis indicated that increases in mindfulness and self-compassion were associated with increases in depressive symptoms and stress; additionally, increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in anxiety and increases in self-compassion were associated with increases in positive risk-taking and resilience.
In August 2016, Making Friends with Yourself was also awarded a grant from the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The study will explore the efficacy of Making Friends with Yourself as a depression-prevention program for adolescents with depression symptoms.
One of the teens in our first pilot study summed up the emotional trials of adolescence in her statement “I feel like everyone is crying in high school!”
This understanding was clearly expressed by another teen in a statement she made after the compassionate friend meditation: “You know … I’m thinking that it’s ok if other kids don’t like me… because I like me!”