Mindfulness to Cultivate Empathy, Resilience, & Therapeutic Presence

presented by Karen Mueller

Accreditation Check:

The current system of healthcare delivery requires the ability to effectively manage multiple, continuous, and often conflicting demands, resulting in emotional and physiologic reactivity, disengagement and burnout. Accordingly, increasing attention is now being directed towards the identification of interventions to support resilience and engagement among healthcare providers. Significant evidence suggests that mindfulness based strategies are effective tools for empowering healthcare providers in the compassionate care of the patients they are called to serve. This course will explore the use of mindfulness based tools for promoting empathy, supporting resilience, and enhancing therapeutic presence among health care providers. Suggestions for the development of both formal and informal mindfulness based practices will be provided.

Meet Your Instructor

  • Karen Mueller, PhD, DPT, PT

    Karen Mueller, PhD, DPT, PT is a professor of physical therapy at Northern Arizona University, where she has taught end of life concepts, professional communication, and mindfulness concepts since 1987. She is the co-founder and inaugural vice chair of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Oncology Section Hospice and Palliative Care Special Interest Group. Dr. Mueller has published and presented extensively on topics related to end of life, mindfulness, and professional communication. She is the author of Communication from the Inside Out: Strategies for the Engaged Professional (FA Davis, 2010).

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Chapters & Learning Objectives

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  1. The Problem of Stress

    1. The Problem of Stress

    This chapter will describe the impact of stress on emotional and physiological responses which impact health care providers by contributing to burnout, disengagement and medical error. The root of stress can be traced to the triune brain theory which suggests that our lowest brain centers are primed for fight or flight. This chapter will also discuss the concept of “amygdala hijack” and its contribution to increasing our impact of chronic stress.

  2. Harnessing Positive Neuroplasticity

    2. Harnessing Positive Neuroplasticity

    Mindfulness practices have been shown to change the structural composition of the brain. Similar to building muscle bulk through consistent practice, the consistent use of mindfulness practices is needed to promote these beneficial brain changes. This chapter will describe the relationship between practice dependent neuroplasticity and the intentional use of mindfulness strategies to increase our capacity for empathy, resilience and presence.

  3. An Overview of Mindfulness

    3. An Overview of Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is described as the purposeful direction of moment to moment, focused and non-judging attention to the internal and external experiences of our lives. While the concept of mindfulness was founded in the Buddhist spiritual tradition, these concepts have been adapted and expanded as an approach to stress reduction. This chapter will explore several concepts related to mindful attention, including self-talk, emotional responses to failure and self-monitoring. Each of these concepts provides rich opportunities for embracing the “what is” of our daily lives without resistance or judgement.

  4. Mindfulness Practices

    4. Mindfulness Practices

    The cultivation of mindfulness can be accomplished through formal practices such as sitting meditation, and can also be incorporated into our daily lives through several practices that increase our awareness of emotional responses and the thoughts that arise. This chapter will explore each of these approaches, providing learners with opportunities for direct experience. Because practice is needed to reap the benefits of mindfulness, practical suggestions will be included for the development of both formal and informal practice.

  5. The Neurophysiology of Mindfulness

    5. The Neurophysiology of Mindfulness

    The mechanisms by which mindfulness practices change the structure of the brain are becoming increasingly well understood. More importantly, every aspect of the mindfulness meditation process (focusing, losing focus, recognizing the loss of focus and redirecting focus) each produce beneficial outcomes which improve cognitive functioning. This chapter will explore the neurophysiologic structures impacted by each aspect of mindfulness meditation practice and provide evidence from recent studies which relates these changes to observable benefits.

  6. Strategies for Empathic Communication

    6. Strategies for Empathic Communication

    By incorporating mindfulness into our daily interactions, we can actually deepen our practice in the midst of our workday. More importantly, we can increase our empathy and engagement with others through deeper and more meaningful relationships. This chapter will explore four strategies: Active Constructive Responding, Appreciative Inquiry, Placebo/Nocebo and Mindful Speaking. Opportunities for practice will enable learners to experience the benefits of these strategies and promote their use in daily interactions.