KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: STAFF TRAINING – OFFICE OF VICTIM SERVICES
Mindfulness and Resilience Training and Research Study for the Kansas Department of Corrections Office of Victim Services (OVS) Staff, June – August 2022
How is this related to Climate Change?
Much of the violence this department addresses with its clients is directly related to historical injustices, racism, economic inequality, harmful social structures, and more. Underpinning each of these issues is how they are related to the environment – whether it’s the effect of increased temperature that is shown to increase violent acts; unhealthy air quality impacting the community’s physical health that drives up health care costs and electric bills with increased use of airconditioning and filters, or whether it’s the lack of safe, welcoming spaces – meaning nature – in the midst of urban heat islands – it’s all interconnected.
Those working to support the victims as well as the perpetrators of violent crime are activists working to alleviate the suffering that is inevitable from the current state of our environment.
Practices like meditation, mindfulness, profound relaxation, open-hearted breathing techniques, and more can reduce stress, release tension, and bring a sense of equanimity even in the midst of trauma and grief that may be encountered within the OVS work environment. With practice, these tools can shift the scales personally, within the OVS client base, as well as within the general community, because they’re meant to be shared with others.
The following research study provided training in these tools to the staff at the Kansas Department of Corrections Office of Victims Services.
Preliminary Report Prepared by
Tyler D. Staples, MS LMLP
for The Resilient Activist
August 25, 2022
Specific Research Questions and Hypotheses
The research question of the investigation was as follows: Would a novel 8-week mindfulness-based training curriculum provided over a virtual telecommunication platform (Zoom) lead to improvements in self-reported psychological well-being? There were two outcomes hypothesized regarding this research question:
Hypothesis 1: There will be a statistically-significant increase in overall psychological well-being as measured by the total score on the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being from pretest to posttest.
Hypothesis 2: There will be a statistically-significant increase in each of the six areas measured by the subscales of the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being from pretest to posttest.
A repeated-measures, pretest-posttest design was utilized. The dependent variables were the level of psychological well-being as measured by the total score and six individual subscales of the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being.
The recommended statistical analysis for a repeated-measures, pretest-posttest design is a paired-samples t-test (Field, 2018). A t-test was completed for each of the measurements: the CD-RISC and the COFLEX and its two domain scale scores. Paired-samples t-tests determined if participants’ scores were significantly different from pretest to posttest. Paired-samples t-tests accounted for both hypotheses. The paired-samples t-tests were analyzed using IBM’s Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) program.
Training Attendance, Participant Demographics, & Study Participation
In total, 29 participants filled out at least a pretest or posttest. All participants were identified female. 23 (79.3%) identified as White, 2 (6.9%) identified as Black, 1 (3.4%) identified as Asian, 1 (3.4%) as Hispanic, 1 (3.4%) as Multiracial. 1 participant did not provide data regarding racial identity.
The average participant age was 39.57 years (SD = 11.33). Study participants reported attending an average of 6.57 (SD = 1.62) of the 8 offered sessions in person (via Zoom) and 1.39 of the sessions via video recording. Participants were asked how much extra time per week they spent on skills taught during the sessions, to which they reported spending an extra 1.13 hours per week.
A paired-samples t-test was conducted to determine if participants’ total Ryff Scales scores were significantly different between pretest and posttest. The analysis revealed a statistically significant difference between participants’ pretest (M = 247.24, SD = 25.24) and posttest scores (M = 256.05, SD = 25.24; t(20) = 2.944, p = .004).
From this data, it can be concluded with confidence that participants improved in subjective psychological well-being between the start and end of the offered training.
A paired-samples t-test was also conducted to determine if participants’ Ryff subscale scores were statistically significant between pretest and posttest. The t-test revealed a statistically significant difference in participants’ scores for three subscales: Autonomy (t(20) = 1.920, p = .035), Environmental Mastery (t(20) = 2.007, p = .029), and Self-Acceptance (t(20) = 2.730, p = .006). Statistical significance was not found with reported scores on the Personal Growth (t(20) = 0.897, p = 0.190), Positive Relationships with Others (t(20) = 1.565, p = .067), and Purpose in Life subscales (t(20) = 1.441, p = .830).
See Table 3 above for a summary of the data and Figure 2 for a graphical representation of the data. From this data, it can be reasonably concluded that participants felt they improved in feelings of Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, and Self-Acceptance from the start to the conclusion of the offered trainings.
Though average scores in each Personal Growth, Positive Relationships with Others, and Purpose in Life also increased from pretest to posttest, these scores were not significantly significant, and as such, no conclusions could be drawn from the data.
- Session 1: Introductory session. Overview and concepts.
- Session 2: Mindful Self-Care for Resilience. Self-care for resilience and for regulating the stress response.
- Session 3: Mindful Self-Compassion for Resilience. Self-compassion for resilience and for taking wise action in alignment with what one values most.
- Session 4: Bringing Nature In – Home and Work Creating a more nature-aware and sustainable work environment; bringing nature into the home and personal life
- Session 5: Grief to Growth – mindfulness as a resource for processing grief, trauma, rage, and loss toward post-traumatic growth
- Session 6: Acceptance to Action – mindful reflections on inequities, injustice, moral injury, and systemic challenges and mindfulness as a resource for taking wise action
- Session 7: Addressing Burn-out and Self-care at Work; Sharing What You Learned; ways to share these resilience concepts and tools with OVS clients to help build clients’ resilience; developing competence and working with people they serve; over-identifying with their role
- Session 8: Summary session: Visionary Activism and A Personal Toolkit; Visionary Activist modeling for inspiration and design of a personal long-term toolkit/plan
This series was required for OVS staff to attend either in person or to watch the video recordings of any missed sessions before the next session began. Each session was 90-minutes long and offered once per week during the workday. Adjustments were made for some staff members who had difficulty with their workday environments – in a prison setting or other high-alert areas. Staff was given permission to participate on Zoom from their homes on those days when classes were held. Because this series was required, there was some resistance to the training from a small percentage of the staff.
Content and handouts were managed through a private group on The Resilient Activist’s Mighty Networks social media platform.
The Resilient Activist is in the process of reaching out to universities and other research organizations to expand the reach and results of this highly successful program. We know the value of training that positively impacts the Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, and Self-Acceptance assessments on the Ryff Scales would be of great value to other organizations whose staff works in stressful, difficult situations.
“I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to be deeply reminded of how important it is for me to be mindfully present in my own life and in my work–and how easily I can lose that focus. This training re-emphasized that in my mind. Thank you!“
“You have planted the seeds now we have choices to nurture our resilience. Awesome work TRA!!!“
“Thank you all so much for all that you did to make this series happen! I know we were tricky Guinea pigs – and I’m so grateful that you took us on! It’s been an awesome 8 weeks and I know you planted some important seeds that we’ll continue to see the benefits of into the future. You’ve also given us so many resources that I know will be helpful for staff and for the clients we serve. Thanks for everything!”
“I LOVE the toolkit! It is robust and will absolutely live on my desktop moving forward. I think walking away with such a great and tangible recap is so helpful in thinking about keeping this at the forefront as the series wraps up. I can’t think of a better format.”
“One takeaway? That I don’t always have the healthiest coping mechanisms. I really like to avoid things, but I think it is also important to look at things head-on. I also liked the feedback from a coworker that mentioned giving ourselves grace regarding our coping skills because sometimes we just have to focus on getting through the day.”
“I am grateful for all the ways this series, and today, in particular, connected to the work we do. Thanks for your efforts to understand our experience and give us tools to navigate more mindfully!”
“I really liked the analytical meditations and visioning exercises. Using meditation to think expansively and joyfully about what’s ahead feels like an exciting opportunity for further exploration.”