Research in Brief: Mindfulness-Based Programs & School Adjustment

By: Karen Ko


  • This Research in Brief blog is part of the School Mental Health series highlighting work and resources for mental health professionals.
  • This brief originated from the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health (VPSMH) project, which partners with VA school divisions and institutions of higher education to expand support for school mental health services.
  • This brief summarizes a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on mindfulness-based programs and school outcomes that used a randomized controlled design with students from preschool to undergraduate levels.
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In this systematic review and meta-analysis, 46 studies on mindfulness-based programs were selected an evaluated. Each of the selected studies used a randomized controlled design and consisted of students from preschool to undergraduate levels. Results of this analysis found that in comparison to control groups, there was a small effect for overall school adjustment outcomes, academic performance, and impulsivity; small to moderate effect for attention; and moderate effect sizes for mindfulness outcomes.


  • School mental health professionals are able to use proactive and preventative measures to support students’ mental health and help build resiliency skills.
  • To promote the use of mindfulness-based programs, school mental health professionals must act as advocates to help clarify the relationship between mindfulness and outcome data when consulting with decision-makers such as school/district administrators, school board members, policy makers, etc.

Equity Considerations

  • Need for more research, as many mindfulness-based programs are being offered across populations, but there is a lack of research investigating differences in programs across participant characteristics.
  • Need to examine the effects of mindfulness-based programs as a whole, as well as individual components, for specific populations.

Practitioner Tips

  • Mindfulness-based programs are encouraged to be implemented at a Tier 1 (school-wide) approach, focusing on helping students build skills in mindfulness
  • Rather than targeting psychopathology, it is important for school mental health professionals to take a strengths-based approach to build skills in students.
  • Incorporating a combination of research-designed mindfulness activities and yoga-based mindfulness activities have shown continued positive effects even after the intervention concludes.
  • Providing training and professional development opportunities in how to implement mindfulness can allow teachers to incorporate mindfulness strategies and practices into their classrooms.
  • Adaptation of an existing mindfulness program, such as MindUp, have shown significant effect on improving overall school adjustment and mindfulness.


Mettler, J., Khoury, B., Zito, S., Sadowski, I., & Heath, N. L. (2023). Mindfulness-based programs and school adjustment: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of School Psychology, 97, 43-62.

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Author Bio: Karen Ko is a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at the University of Virginia, pursuing the School Mental Health emphasis offered to trainees through the Virginia Partnership for School Mental Health. Trainees in this emphasis complete additional coursework and field experience requirements that prepare them to take on leadership roles in addressing the mental health needs of students in K-12 schools.

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