DYC Youth Explore Mindfulness and Self Compassion

MindfulnessBy Stacy Schoolfield, L.C.S.W. Hilltop Residential Youth Services 

Beginning last Fall, each Wednesday evening, for 16 weeks, Division of Youth Corrections youth at Residential Youth Services (RYS) Hilltop in Grand Junction practiced mindfulness and self compassion in a program facilitated by Hilltop Volunteer Skip Hudson and therapists Kyla Hauer and Stacy Schoolfield. The program, "Making Friends with Yourself" was developed for youth and is based on the Mindful Self Compassion program, designed for adults by Kristin Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer PhD. Each  week, the youth participated in experiential exercises, such as mindful eating and questioning as well as  meditations and art projects.  With each session, the youth became more engaged in the lessons and discussion. 

The youth reported that they looked forward to the sessions and were able to use the tools they learned each week.  They reported that the sessions helped them learn how to be “still” and to develop the same compassion for themselves as they have for others. Therapeutically the program emphasized mindfulness and self-awareness as well as tools that the youth can continue to use long after they leave. 

One of the sessions introduced the idea of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold, making the broken places part of the bowl’s history and beauty.  For a thank you gift, the youth presented Skip with gifts that reflected what they learned from him during their 16 weeks together. A heart shaped rock representing compassion and their  own version of a Kintsugi bowl. Each youth wrote a note of thanks and something they learned from the program on the outside of a terracotta planter. The planter was then broken and glued back together with gold glue. The youth reported to Skip that the sessions helped them understand that their own mistakes were part of their history and rather than making them bad or broken, can make them stronger and better able to cope.