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Mindfulness practices could be a key to reducing stress and improving relationships for couples.

A UT researcher is launching a home-based mindfulness intervention aimed at helping low-income couples build healthier and stronger relationships.

Katie Lenger, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Psychology, is leading the initiative. She is working with Kristina Gordon, professor of psychology and a relationship expert.

The two-year project is funded by a $15,000 grant from the Mind and Life Institute.

Research has shown that mindfulness practices can reduce both individual and relationship stress, Lenger said. Yet low-income couples sometimes can’t access mindfulness-based interventions or take part in typical approaches to therapy because of barriers that include a lack of transportation and child care. Additionally, many mindfulness interventions occur over eight to 12 weeks, which leads to greater attrition rates.

To address these challenges, Lenger plans to develop shorter home-based interventions to help low-income couples be more successful in their relationships.

“We would like to see if mindfulness can be a useful tool for these underserved populations,” Lenger said.

Here is how it works: the couples will have short assignments at home, which include taking time to attend to the present moment and doing breathing exercises. They complete follow-up interviews at one month and six months after the intervention.

Lenger is seeking to recruit 60 low-income couples for the study. To be eligible, couples must be in a committed monogamous nonabusive relationship, be married or cohabitating with their partner, and report combined incomes below $31,869 for a two-person household and below $40,180 to $48,500 for a family with two to three children, respectively.

To learn more about the study or to participate, email or call 865-974-3347.


Katie Lenger (865-974-3347,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,