Date of Award

Summer 8-9-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Greg Brack, PhD

Second Advisor

Catherine Chang, PhD

Third Advisor

Jonathan Orr, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Brian Dew, PhD


Trauma has the capacity to produce a wide range of symptoms that have a damaging impact on psychological, biological, and social functioning (van der Kolk & McFarlane, 1996; Briere & Scott, 2013). Though several empirically-supported treatments for trauma exist and are used widely, the literature has identified concerns with some of the leading treatments, such as increased suicidality, panic attacks, alcoholic relapse (Pitman, et al., 1991), high nonresponse rates, and high dropout rates (Jeffreys, et al., 2013). Others have observed that cognitive-behavioral interventions, while often effective in decreasing specific PTSD symptoms, often do not address other common reactions to trauma such as emotion dysregulation, interpersonal problems, Borderline Personality Disorder, existential impacts of trauma, and complex PTSD (Follette et al., 2015). It is therefore our ethical duty as researchers and clinicians to explore additional, modified, or adjunctive treatments for trauma symptoms. Mindfulness is emerging as one such possibility, and has a growing base of empirical and theoretical support (Kimbrough et al., 2010; Smith, 2011; Kearney et al., 2012, 2013; Follette et al., 2006; Steil et al., 2011; Lang et al., 2012). In this paper the existing literature on mindfulness and trauma is reviewed, and the clinical application of mindfulness skills is illustrated though a case example. Though there is considerable support showing that mindfulness is effective in treating trauma, gaps in the research literature exist that examine how and why mindfulness is effective (Coffey & Hartman, 2008). The current study examined one potential mechanism behind mindfulness’ efficacy in treating trauma, experiential avoidance. The study’s hypothesis is that for survivors of trauma, experiential avoidance will partially mediate the relationship between mindfulness and trauma symptoms. The hypothesis was tested via regression-based mediation analyses with bootstrapping. The results revealed a significant indirect effect of mindfulness on trauma symptoms via experiential avoidance. The hope of this project is that by conducting mindfulness-based research and informing clinicians of the research on mindfulness, clinicians can learn to apply these techniques in safe, ethical, and effective ways, leading their clients towards health, empowerment, and resiliency.