College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

FSOS associate professor awarded National Institutes of Health grant

Timothy Piehler, associate professor of Family Social Science, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to help adolescents improve their mental health and prevent school-based conduct issues, including aggression and violence. The grant is a 3-year award funded by the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NCCIH, for a total amount of $710,966.   

Piehler's research will address the urgent need for innovation in interventions that address adolescent conduct problems. Existing interventions in this area tend to be expensive, resource-intensive, and ineffective for many youth who participate. This program of research will evaluate the impact of a mindfulness-based intervention called Learning to Breathe (L2B) in helping adolescents develop greater self-control through increasing their present-moment awareness and acceptance of emotional states.   

Piehler will also evaluate how a new mobile app integrated with L2B may support outcomes in addition to in-person sessions. The app is designed to help adolescents apply new mindfulness skills in daily activities, particularly during stressful moments. For the past three years, Piehler and Rachel Lucas-Thompson, Associate Professor, Colorado State University, have developed the mobile app using support from a Redleaf Foundation Grant. The app will provide reminders to practice developing mindfulness skills and offer suggestions for mindfulness practices when adolescents self-report elevated stress levels.  

"The integration of mobile apps with in-person programming is a promising synergistic intervention strategy," says Piehler. "We hypothesize that the in-person sessions will support engagement and motivate adolescents to develop new skills while the app will allow them to better integrate and practice skills in daily life."   

He says they need critical information before evaluating the efficacy of the combined L2B+App intervention in a larger trial. "We have fully developed the app to be used in the L2B+App intervention, but it requires refining and testing," he says. "We want to improve app integration with in-person programming and evaluate key metrics such as the feasibility, acceptability, and engagement associated with L2B+App in the targeted population."  

In addition to Lucas-Thompson, Piehler's co-investigators include Gerald August, professor in Family Social Science, as well as Annie Goerdt, a research associate and school psychologist, and Mengchen Su, an educational statistician, both in the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). Patricia Broderick, a clinical and school psychologist who developed the L2B program, will also support the study.