wellness spotlight

Learn How to Use The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) as a Coach

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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As a wellness coach, it can be helpful to consider incorporating tools into your coaching practice that can accentuate your work with a client. Overall, coaching tools can be helpful to add in if they bring value to the coaching experience and help a client gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

The good news is that coaching tools can be leveraged at any stage – new/ intake, ongoing, or even at the end of a coaching package to assess client progress. Tools a coach might consider include mindfulness exercises, self-discovery paperwork, or even empirically based assessments. One such assessment that falls in this last category is the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, also known as MAAS.

What is The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)?

The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) is designed to measure trait mindfulness and identify which individuals are more skillful at being in a state of mindfulness. More specifically, this assessment measures the ability to pay attention and be aware of the present moment which is a foundational component of mindfulness. In general, this state of mind allows a person to be sensitive and receptive to what is occurring around them or within their experience non-judgmentally.

This foundational self-awareness can help individuals learn to reduce stress, reduce negative emotions, and improve overall wellbeing. Mindful awareness also helps individuals become more aware of what they are thinking and feeling at any given moment. In time, individuals can learn to not judge what they are observing and learn to let go of thoughts or feelings that are not helpful to their wellbeing. Similarly, having a strong ability to be aware of what is occurring both externally and internally in the present moment can help individuals incorporate more mindfulness in their relationships with others.

the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale in Practice

In general, the MAAS assessment is a 15-item questionnaire that includes 1-6 Likert scale questions. A Likert scale is a type of satisfaction measure where individuals are presented with a variety of answers to pick from on a specific topic. In these types of questions, individuals are asked to pick the response that best matches their attitudes or what is true for them.

Often there is a neutral option to select as a response in case an individual does not have a strong preference or attitude in either direction on a specific statement. For the MAAS assessment specifically, individuals are asked how frequently or infrequently they can have each experience listed in the assessment and are advised to answer based on which response accurately matches their experience. For example, one statement on the assessment states, “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.”

In this example, a person completing this assessment would need to select the response that best matches their experience. The answers on the MAAS assessment include 1 (Almost Always), 2 (Very Frequently), 3 (Somewhat Frequently), 4 (Somewhat Infrequently), 5 (Very Infrequently), and 6 (Rarely).

Each statement on the assessment relates to the mindfulness concept of present-moment awareness. To score the assessment after it is completed; individuals would need to find the mean or average of the 15 items. If someone scores a higher number on this assessment, it means that a person has a higher degree of dispositional mindfulness. This means that these individuals can be more likely to self-reflect and be receptive to their internal state and external environment consciously.

If someone has a MAAS score on the lower side, it can mean the opposite is true and they are less likely to self-reflect and pay attention mindfully. If someone has a higher degree of dispositional mindfulness, they are likely more proficient at utilizing present moment awareness as it relates to their internal state, external environment, and relationships with others.

Making Mindfulness Matter

The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale can also help individuals learn more about their baseline level of trait mindfulness and use this knowledge to help them set future mindfulness goals. Additionally, this assessment can be an important catalyst in motivating individuals to change and work on their ability to be mindful of the present moment.

A great theory that demonstrates this the best is the Trans-theoretical model (TTM) developed by James Prochaska. According to this model, all behavior change begins in the pre-contemplation stage. This stage is defined as when an individual does not believe there is anything to change regarding their health or lifestyle.

They are happy with the status quo and are often in denial regarding the behavioral problem or an area of improvement. One process, or strategy, that helps an individual move from the pre-contemplation stage of change to the contemplation stage of change is consciousness-raising.

Putting MAAS to Work

An assessment like MAAS can be a consciousness-raising tool that might help an individual realize that there could be some benefit in changing the level of mindful awareness in their life. In the example given above, having the results of this assessment can help a person enter the contemplation stage of change where they are considering whether they want to change, and start to weigh the respective pros and cons.

Weighing the pros and cons of change based on what the assessment identified about themselves, could even help shift an individual from the contemplation stage of change to the preparation stage of change. They can determine that yes, the pros of change outweigh the cons and that there would be a benefit in starting or increasing mindfulness in their lives.

By realizing this from the assessment, it might be enough to motivate an individual to start creating a plan for change within the next thirty days which is a defining characteristic of the preparation stage of change. By creating this plan, an individual can start to actively practice mindfulness and improve present moment awareness in their daily lives, a key characteristic of the action stage of change. The example discussed above demonstrates how learning the MAAS results can have an impact on an individual’s behavioral motivation and goal setting which is like the goal of coaching.

Coaching Mindfulness 

The MAAS assessment can fit nicely into the coaching experience. Before working with a client, coaches will often schedule a discovery or foundational meetings with a client to learn more about their goals and see if coaching is a good fit for them.

Often this is when coaches might do some baseline exploration with the client to understand their intentions better and incorporate paperwork that the client fills out about themselves. This assessment could be part of this introductory paperwork to help a coach understand a client’s baseline dispositional mindfulness especially if a coach primarily focuses on stress management and resilience.

The assessment could be used as a standard form that every client fills out or one that is used only if a client expresses interest in reducing their stress and working on building a mindfulness practice. In either situation, knowing these assessment results can add value to the coach and client discussion which in turn helps the client progress forward.

More specifically, a coach can ask open-ended questions to explore the key insights a client has after reviewing their assessment results, inquire about what the assessment tells them about themselves, and further explore how higher levels of mindfulness could help improve their overall goals. From there, a coach could explore further whether the client wants to make a change in that area of their life and help them set up an actionable plan forward. By having insights into the MAAS results a coach can ask the right questions that help get the client to where they want to be.

What Are Some Challenges with The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale?

There are some limitations of this scale a coach should consider if planning to utilize this tool in their coaching practices. Firstly, more research is needed to continue to support the empirical use of this tool. Although it has empirical-based support currently, more research done across various demographics will be important. Secondly, relying on participant self-reporting can be a limitation in the scale results because self-reporting can lead to reporting bias and inaccuracy.

For example, participants are answering questions about their present moment awareness by remembering moments from the past and this can sometimes lead to skewed results. Lastly, more research about mindfulness, in general, can continue to strengthen how mindfulness is assessed in the future.

Overall, the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) can be a valuable tool to use in the coaching setting if it fits the client’s needs. As you consider using this assessment in the coaching setting, you must take time to understand the tool itself, how it is scored, and what the score means before starting to use it with a client. Additionally, it is recommended to have a good foundational understanding of mindfulness before using this tool with clients.

Being able to articulate and demonstrate what mindfulness is and how it would support your clients is an essential piece needed to utilize this tool appropriately.

The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, NBC-HWC, ACSM, E-RYT. Dana works as a Wellness Strategy Manager with Vitality and has 15+ years experience in onsite fitness and wellness management. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an Adjunct Professor with Rowan University, an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher, AFAA Group Exercise Instructor, ACSM Exercise Physiologist, and ACE Personal Trainer. Learn more about Dana at www.danabenderwellness.com.


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