Our first cohort of ELOTD students are now well underway on their Doctoral Experiential Component (DEC) capstone projects. We are excited to highlight some of our students and their projects on our blog! Below, hear what Katelyn Loring has to say about her DEC experience:
Project title: Evaluating an Eight-Week Online Mindfulness Program: A Pilot Study
What brought you to this Doctoral Experiential Component (DEC) capstone project?
Prior to starting at Tufts, I knew very little about mindfulness. My mindfulness journey began during my second semester when I enrolled in the Tufts KORU Mindfulness course. I enjoyed learning about resilience, self-compassion, and paying attention in the moment. While I was interested in the topic of mindfulness and its many benefits, I didn’t expect it to intersect with my coursework in occupational therapy (OT). To my surprise, mindfulness began to pop up in nearly all of my classes as a common aspect of OT intervention. My knowledge of mindfulness continued to grow when I conducted a scoping review on the impact of mindfulness interventions for adults with intellectual disability. This scoping review allowed for a seamless transition into my DEC, which primarily focused on evaluating an adult mindfulness program.
What is your DEC project?
For my DEC project, I partnered with a non-profit organization, Calmer Choice, that offers mindfulness programming to groups within the community. I evaluated the organization’s eight-week mindfulness course for adults to better understand the effectiveness of the course, its impact on participants, and the results of administering the course remotely. To do this, I designed and received Tufts IRB approval to conduct a three-part outcomes study using a pre, post, and eight weekly online surveys. I carefully selected valid and reliable outcome measures to determine any change in participant mindful awareness and acceptance, well-being, perceived stress, and resilience. Through this methodology, I was able to detect increases in each of the outcome measures, with significant change and large effects for well-being and resilience. More information on the outcomes of this research can be found here.
When I wasn’t analyzing data, I facilitated focus groups and conducted interviews with mindfulness instructors to gain their perspective on program effectiveness. Speaking with instructors was a fun way to dive deeper into the organization and broaden the impact of my capstone. These insights, along with my observations throughout the 14-week experience, allowed me to develop a recommendations report which Calmer Choice has already begun to implement.
Tell us about your relationship with your DEC faculty mentor and how you collaborated through the capstone project.
The relationship I developed with my DEC faulty mentor, Dr. Mary Alicia Barnes, has been more impactful than I ever imagined it would be. Mary was my greatest support throughout my capstone project, constantly going above and beyond to ensure I had a positive experience and my project was a success. She was as dedicated to the project as I was and devoted time every week to meet with me about it. She tailored her mentoring style to meet my needs and pushed me along the way to be my best. Our different personalities and work styles provided an opportunity to view the project more holistically, ensure we were meeting the needs of the site, and remaining culturally sensitive. I’m so grateful for the constant encouragement and the sincerity that Mary brings to our relationship. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her as we prepare for upcoming conference presentations and I hope we can continue our relationship even after I graduate from Tufts.
How do you see this DEC project impacting your future?
With the incredible support of my faculty and site mentors, I experienced tremendous personal and professional growth from my DEC experience. From a professional standpoint, I gained new knowledge relating to research, interpreting data for specific audiences, and communicating effectively, among others. In terms of personal growth, this experience bolstered my confidence in myself and in the work I can produce. It emphasized self-care, flexibility, and open-mindedness. This 14-week experience solidified in me the doctoral-level skills needed as a future Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctoral practitioner. I feel very lucky to have had an amazing community partner and DEC mentor supporting me throughout this journey.
The support and encouragement I received are what prompted me to submit my findings to upcoming occupational therapy conferences. This fall, I will be presenting a poster at the Massachusetts Association of Occupational Therapy (MAOT) Conference and giving an oral presentation at the Janet Falk-Kessler Distinguished Lectureship. In spring 2022, I will be presenting a poster at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference in San Antonio, Texas. While I’m still undecided as to whether or not I want to be a researcher in the future, I’m confident that I now have the tools to do so if that’s what I choose.