Context: Workplace stress and burnout are pervasive problems, affecting employee performance and personal health.
Objective: To evaluate the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on psychological distress and burnout among staff at a residential therapeutic school for students with severe behavioral problems.
Design: A total of 40 secondary schoolteachers and support staff at the Bennington School in Vermont, a therapeutic school for children with behavioral problems, were randomly assigned to either practice of the Transcendental Meditation program or a wait-list control group. The Transcendental Meditation course was provided by certified instructors.
Main outcome measures: Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and four months, and included perceived stress, depression, and burnout. A multivariate analysis of covariance was used to determine overall effects.
Results: Analysis of the 4-month intervention data indicated a significant improvement in the main outcomes of the study resulting from practice of the Transcendental Meditation program compared with controls (Wilks Λ [3,28] = 0.695; p = 0.019). Results of univariate F tests indicated a significant reduction of all main outcome measures: perceived stress (F[1,32] = 13.42; p = < 0.001); depression (F[1,32] = 6.92; p = 0.013); and overall teacher burnout (F[1,32] = 6.18; p = 0.018). Effect sizes ranged from 0.40 to 0.94.
Conclusions: The Transcendental Meditation program was effective in reducing psychological distress in teachers and support staff working in a therapeutic school for students with behavioral problems. These findings have important implications for employees’ job performance as well as their mental and physical health.