UConn Researcher Adapting Mindfulness Program for LGBTQIA+ Youth for Online Use

Gio Iacono is translating a program to support LGBTQIA+ youth into an accessible virtual platform


Gio Iacono, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work has received a $20,000 grant from the Mind & Light Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of Tuned In! — A Mindfulness-Based Affirmative Program for LGBTQIA+ Youth on a virtual platform.

This study will build on Iacono’s previous research which found Tuned In! significantly increases measures such as self-compassion, mindfulness, and self-kindness while lowering self-judgment.

Iacono’s work on this grant is the first known study to propose adapting mindfulness-based interventions for LGBTQIA+ youth to improve mental health.

This study will help evaluate the potential of Tuned In! to provide a rapid response to the needs of vulnerable LGBTQIA+ in America.

This grant will support the development of an eight-session intervention deployed over WebEx. Tuned In! uses a trauma-informed approach which recognizes the pervasiveness of trauma among LGBTQIA+ youth populations. This approach aims to foster greater safety, trust, and empowerment for this population. These group sessions will work to increase mindfulness, critical coping skills, and other positive outcomes for participants. Importantly, Tuned In! will be adapted to address the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth during the COVID-19 pandemic which has collapsed many social support systems.

Developing Tuned In! for an online platform not only addresses a pressing need during the pandemic, but opens the potential to expand Tuned In! to reach LGBTQIA+ youth in hard-to-access areas, such as rural communities.

The success of this program could have a significant impact on how LGBTQIA+ youth cope with daily and pandemic-related stressors.

“Successful integration of the intervention, particularly on a virtual platform, could have significant positive real-world implications for LGBTQIA+ youth across America during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Iacono says.

This grant will also establish an LGBTQIA+ Youth Research Engagement Board. This interdisciplinary, community-led team will include LGBTQIA+ youth, community members, and academics.

The community-based approach of Tuned In! promotes the inclusion of these youths in all parts of the study. This inclusive model helps ensure the intervention will be as helpful and appropriate as possible.

The results of this study will help inform the development of a national strategy to implement Tuned In! across the country to support the well-being and mental health of LGBTQIA+ youth in diverse locations and communities. Iacono hopes to eventually incorporate Tuned In! into regular physical and mental health programming across North America.

By working with youth specifically, this program aims to give people in this vulnerable population the tools they need to maintain their own mental health and combat anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination at an early age better equipping them to deal with them as adults.

The ultimate goal of this work is support LGBTQIA+ youth through engaged mindfulness practices which can hopefully allow them to actively participate in challenging oppressive social systems and transforming them into a more inclusive society.

Iacono holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. His research interests include LGBTQIA+ youth mental health, youth resilience, mindfulness and contemplative practice approaches, community-based participatory research, diversity and inclusion in social work education, and intervention research.

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