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Developing professional caregivers’ empathy and emotional competencies through mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): results of two proof-of-concept studies
  1. Martin Lamothe1,2,
  2. Pierre McDuff2,
  3. Yves D Pastore1,3,4,
  4. Michel Duval1,3,4,
  5. Serge Sultan1,2,3,4
  1. 1Charles Bruneau Cancer Care Centre, CHU Sainte-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  3. 3Department of Hematology-Oncology, CHU Sainte-Justine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  4. 4Department of Pediatrics, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Martin Lamothe; martin.lamothe{at}


Objectives To assess the feasibility and acceptability of a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)-based intervention and determine if the intervention is associated with a significant signal on empathy and emotional competencies.

Design Two pre–post proof-of-concept studies.

Setting Participants were recruited at the University of Montreal’s Psychology Department (Study 1) and the CHU Sainte-Justine Department of Hematology-Oncology (Study 2).

Participants Study 1: 12 students completed the 8-week programme (mean age 24, range 18–34). Study 2: 25 professionals completed the 8-week programme (mean age 48, range 27–63).

Intervention Standard MBSR programme including 8-week mindfulness programme consisting of 8 consecutive weekly 2-hour sessions and a full-day silent retreat.

Outcomes measures Mindfulness as measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale; empathy as measured by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI)’s Perspective Taking and Empathic Concern subscales; identification of one’s own emotions and those of others as measured by the Profile of Emotional Competence (PEC)’s Identify my Emotions and Identify Others’ Emotions subscales; emotional acceptance as measured by the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II (AAQ-II) and the Emotion Regulation Scale (ERQ)’s Expressive Suppression subscale; and recognition of emotions in others as measured by the Geneva Emotion Recognition Test (GERT).

Results In both studies, retention rates (80%–81%) were acceptable. Participants who completed the programme improved on all measures except the PEC’s Identify Others’ Emotions and the IRI’s Empathic Concern (Cohen’s d median=0.92, range 45–1.72). In Study 2, favourable effects associated with the programme were maintained over 3 months on the PEC’s Identify my Emotions, the AAQ-II, the ERQ’s Expressive Suppression and the GERT.

Conclusions The programme was feasible and acceptable. It was associated with a significant signal on the following outcomes: perspective taking, the identification of one’s own emotions and emotional acceptance, thus, justifying moving towards efficacy trials using these outcomes.

  • mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • haematology-oncology
  • empathy
  • emotional competence
  • profesional caregivers

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Contributor ML participated in the design of the study, coordinated the study, performed the statistical analysis and wrote the manuscript. MD helped design the study and participant recruitment, and revised the manuscript. PM provided advice for the statistical analysis and revised the manuscript. YDP revised the manuscript. SS participated in the design of the study and the coordination of the study, found financial support and coordinated the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation. ML was supported by Grant No. GSM 136461 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)—Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Programme and Grant No. 32083 from the Fond de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS)—Doctoral training.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Research ethics committees of the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the CHU Sainte-Justine (no 2016–1068).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

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