Yoga-based psychotherapy groups for boys exposed to trauma in urban settings

Monica Beltran, Abena Brown-Elhillali, April Held, Patrice Ryce, Mirian E. Ofonedu, Daniel Hoover, Kaitlin Ensor, Harolyn M.E. Belcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background • Children who experience abuse and neglect and are exposed to adverse life events are at risk of developing emotional and behavioral problems. They may display variable internalizing and externalizing symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, low selfesteem, and aggression. Yoga may be able to regulate body-brain pathways that cause stress following traumatic experiences, thereby reducing adverse mental and physical sequelae. Objective • The objective of this preliminary study is to examine changes in functioning following meetings of a yoga-based psychotherapy group (YBPG) for boys with a history of interpersonal trauma exposure. Methods/Design • The study was a prospective, intervention cohort study. Setting • The study occurred at an urban-based mental health center focusing on treatment of children exposed to interpersonal trauma in their communities and families. Participants • Participants were 10 boys, aged 8-12 y, who primarily were African-Americans (70%) and who had a history of trauma. Intervention • The YBPG was a 12-wk, yoga-based, group therapy, integrated with mental health treatment that was trauma informed and evidence-based. Outcome Measures • Measures of attendance and interpersonal functioning—the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale 2 (BERS-2) and patient satisfaction surveys—were collected. The pre- and post-YBPG, paired t test; Wilcoxon’s signed rank test; and effect sizes were calculated to assess change in interpersonal functioning following the YBPG, as reported by the parents and children. Results • The BERS-2 scores yielded clinically and statistically significant mean improvements on the parents’ ratings of participants’ (1) Interpersonal Strength, Intrapersonal Strength, and Family Involvement scores, with mean improvements on those subscales being 1.4 (P =.007), 1.9 (P =.012), and 1.4 (P =.045) points, respectively; and (2) Strength Index scores, with a mean improvement of 8.7 (P =.004). The effect size was in the large range. In addition to significant improvements posttreatment, the parents’ mean rating score of their children’s functioning was closer but still lower than the children’s self-reports on all subscales. The attendance rate for the YBPG was among the highest for group therapies at the center. Conclusions • The study provided preliminary evidence for the feasibility of YBPG as an effective intervention for boys exposed to trauma in urban settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-46
Number of pages8
JournalAlternative therapies in health and medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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