RESEARCH

In 2019, we conducted our first study of a multimodal psychotherapeutic group program for adolescents with multiple adverse childhood experiences. The program, conceived and developed by French-Colombian psychologist Susana Roque Lopez, founder of the NGO Innocence in Danger Colombia, includes mindfulness-type meditation, combined with artistic expression activities and psychological therapy for trauma (EMDR).

Through two scientific studies led by Dr. Perla Kaliman and with the collaboration of Dr. Richard Davidson (Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin Madison), Dr. Susana Roque López (Inocencia en Peligro-Colombia), and psychiatrist Elkin Llanes Anaya (University of Santander, Colombia) inclure liens, we provided the first evidence that this type of intervention brings psychological benefits and epigenetic changes in adolescents with traumatic experiences.

At the heart of Generation Alpha Minds programs is the scientific evidence that ACEs impact the brain, body, and behavior.

Forty-four girls between the ages of 13 and 16 who had experienced four or more adverse childhood events and were living in residential childcare settings participated in this initiative. At the end of the program, the adolescents significantly decreased the symptomatology associated with post-traumatic stress and increased their ability to connect with the present moment in a conscious way, being more aware of their body and their thoughts. The results of this work also demonstrate that this multimodal group strategy results in epigenetic changes in trauma-sensitive biological pathways that are related to a significant decrease in post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) increase the risk of morbidity and mortality and can have a negative impact on life chances and social behavior throughout life. Worldwide, up to one billion children aged 2-17 years, experience neglect, maltreatment, or abuse at the physical, sexual, or emotional level (Hillis et al., 2016). Given the risk of intergenerational transmission of maltreatment and abuse behaviors, these findings could represent an avenue for interrupting intergenerational cycles of suffering.

Our long-term goal is to help stop intergenerational cycles of suffering.

The results of this research are published in internationally peer-reviewed scientific journals that can be freely accessed at the following links: Scientific Reports, 2022; Child Abuse & Neglect, 2021.

OUR PROGRAMS

With increasing numbers of young people facing mental health challenges and suffering from stress, anxiety, trauma, we have developed a 3-month multimodal program for schools, to provide children and adolescents with tools and strategies of stress management, emotional regulation and reprocessing of adverse experiences. Our program includes practices to promote wellbeing through meditation training, creative expression and techniques to reprocess of adverse experiences that children can continue practicing themselves anywhere and anytime after the training, even when they don’t have easy access to an instructor, or a pricey therapy.

The set of techniques that includes our multimodal program is aimed at helping children learn how to manage their emotions and build resilience and wellbeing at a young age, with the aspiration to improve their lives, the lives of others and the environment.

We offer programs for children and adolescents in schools, in foster care, or other community centers. Our programs have a duration of 3 months. Classes are typically 120 minutes. Twice per week during the first month and once a week the second and third months.

CURRENT PROGRAMS

Impact of a multimodal school program on the regulation of emotions and stress in children in a vulnerable neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Collaboration with Dr. Rocío Martínez Vivot (Conicet, Argentina).

This project will start in April 2024.

We will evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of a multimodal school mindfulness-based and trauma-informed program. A group of 60 children (11 years old) will be assigned either to an intervention group (IG) or a waiting list control group (CG), that will be invited to participate once the study is over. The program consists of 16 sessions to be carried out over 3 months, starting with 2 sessions per week the first month, followed by one session per week for the next 2 months. The sessions have a duration of 2 hours. The proposed program intentionally combines various contemplative strategies of emotional and attentional regulation, combined with artistic expression and techniques of guided imagery and positive affirmations, empowering children to face difficulties with greater insight and adaptability. The sessions are delivered jointly by a group of 2 psychologists certified in mindfulness and an artist, all of them with vast experience in children and trauma. We will evaluate variables related to stress, traits of mindfulness, social integration and wellbeing in both the IG and the CG, in correlation with a quantitative analysis (stress biomarkers: heart rate variability and cortisol levels accumulated in hair samples), before the start of the intervention (t1), and at the end of the program (t2). Likewise, there will be a first-person survey, carrying out a qualitative phenomenological analysis (personal perceptions about the intervention). We will also collect saliva samples at t1 and t2 to evaluate epigenetic changes in DNA methylation in a second phase of the project if initial results indicate an improvement in the psycho-biological stress profile. We expect that the results of this research will contribute to supporting this type of multimodal interventions to reduce the psychological and emotional burden on preadolescents, in an attempt to promote mental health in young people, the basis of a healthier society.

EUROPEAN VARELA AWARDS (EVAS)

A multimodal trauma-informed school program to promote mental health for children exposed to adverse childhood experiences in El Salvador.

Collaboration with the non-profit organization Kanzeon Zen El Salvador.

This project is planned to start in September 2024.

The 13 de Enero de Talnique Community in El Salvador was built after the 2001 earthquake that devastated the entire area of the Sierra del Balsamo, destroying the coffee plantations that supported the inhabitants of the zone. Currently, the 13 de Enero community lives in conditions of social vulnerability. Children are exposed to multiple ACEs, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental addictions, mental illness in the household, etc. Scientific research shows that ACEs can have serious short- and long-term physical, mental and behavioral consequences, with a significant risk of intergenerational transmission of abuse and neglect.

Based on previous work by members of our team, this project proposes a 3-month school program for pre- adolescents. Our multimodal group program is composed of meditation-based training to promote wellbeing, artistic expression, conflict resolution practices and practices of guided imagery and positive affirmations to cultivate a resilient mindset, empowering children to face difficulties with greater insight and adaptability.

Multimodal trauma-informed school program for the promotion of mental health in children exposed to the war in Ukraine.

collaboration with the Ukrainian Mindfulness Association

 Expected start date of this program: September 2024.

Recent surveys in Ukraine show that 40% of children and young people between the ages of 13 and 19 fear for their lives and those of their loved ones because of the war. Nine out of ten say they want to participate in the reconstruction of their country. It is estimated that around 1.5 million children in Ukraine are at risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems due to their daily contact with war. However, they will be the actors of the future of their country.

 

From Generation Alpha Minds, in collaboration with the Ukrainian Mindfulness Association (https://ngo-uma.com/), chaired by Dr. Julia Stadnytska, we are organizing the implementation of a multimodal school program based on wellbeing promotion through mindfulness training, artistic expression and trauma reprocessing strategies (group EMDR) for pre-teens in the cities of Kyiv and Lviv (Lviv). The effectiveness of the program will be evaluated in collaboration with researchers from the Ukrainian Catholic University.

TESTIMONIALS

These are some comments from 11-year-olds from a school in La Boca, Buenos Aires Argentina:

“I liked learning to listen to the silence that is in the environment along with the interference that is often present.”

“I felt very relaxed and listened to. I loved when we painted the mandala, another method of relaxation.”

“I learned how to calm down in difficult moments.”

“We talked about things that I identified with and I am going to apply what I learned.”

“I would like to do this workshop again.”

RATES

We offer fee-free programs to resource-strapped vulnerable communities and fee-for-service programs on a sliding scale, to help ensure that our programs can get where they belong.

Site partners on the higher end of our sliding scale enable us to offer support to smaller, resource-strapped schools and community based organizations. This balancing act is part of how we ensure that we can program as widely as we can, maintain the staffing and the scientific research to validate and improve our programs.