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Social Work in Mental Health





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anxiety disorders, cognitive behavioral interventions, meta-analysis, mindfulness, social work practice


Increasingly popular mindfulness intervention innovations seem demonstrably effective in alleviating anxiety among people with anxiety disorders. However, the basis of such primary and synthetic evidence has, for the most part, been comparisons with non-active comparison conditions such as waiting lists. The longest-standing and strongest evidence-informed practices in this field have been cognitive behavioral interventions (CBI). This meta-analysis synthesized evidence from nine randomized trials of the relative effectiveness of mindfulness interventions compared to CBIs (i.e., active control groups) in treating anxiety disorders. The sample-weighted synthesis found no statistically or practically significant differences between the two groups on anxiety alleviation: Cohen’s d = - 0.02 (95% confidence interval = - 0.16, 0.12). Both groups enjoyed large clinical benefits. However, because mindfulness methods may require less professional training and take less time for both workers and clients to master, they are probably less expensive to provide. As they are probably less expensive, but equally effective, it seems that, in a cost-beneficial sense, mindfulness interventions may be more practically effective. These review-generated meta-analytic findings and inferences may be best thought of as developed hypotheses for future research testing. These and other future research needs are discussed.