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In the last few decades mindfulness in therapy has been making steady inroads into the practice of psychotherapy. The research body that supports the effectiveness of mindfulness in therapy practice is growing exponentially.
Mindfulness in therapy was introduced into psychotherapy practice in the early 1980s, starting with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), programs such as dialectic behaviour therapy (DBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) were soon to follow.
Today there exists a vast range of mindfulness-based treatment programs for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse, sleep disorders, etc., and the usefulness of mindfulness in therapy practices in the clinical setting is increasingly becoming recognised by counsellors, psychotherapists and life coaches.
If you are interested to read more about mindfulness, about applications of mindfulness in therapy practice, and about research findings relating to mindfulness, please visit the Mindfulness & Meditation category in my Articles collection.
Mindfulness in therapy practice; benefits for clients in counselling, psychotherapy and life coaching
In theory, counselling and psychotherapy is not exactly the same thing, but in practical reality they tend to be overlapping and often indistinguishable from one another (as discussed in more detail on the Personal Counselling & Therapy page). Similarly, life coaching is also in many ways different from counselling (you can read more about this in this article: Life coaching and Counselling). With regard to the practice of mindfulness in therapy, however, it is equally beneficial whether you are a client in counselling, psychotherapy, or life coaching – for simplicity, these are all referred to as ‘therapy’ in this section.
Mindfulness is about being present in the present; being fully present to your experience, as it actually is, moment by moment. It is about being ‘switched-on’, being awake and aware; to notice what is happening each moment, to fully experience each experience, rather than being lost in thoughts, opinions and judgements about your experiences.
By incorporating the practice of mindfulness in therapy, you gain skills which are very important for achieving positive outcomes.
For example, you develop a heightened awareness of all aspects of your experiences; sensory, somatic, emotional, cognitive, as well as of interpersonal dynamics. This then gives you better access to what is actually taking place in your personal challenges, and allows you to access more specific details about the dynamics of the issue/problem that you wish to address in therapy. And the more fully you are able to identify the details of what is taking place in your times of difficulty, the more likely it is that your therapist/coach will be able to find best angles to tackle the issue/problem from, and the best solution strategies to introduce.
As a consequence of becoming more aware of the nature of your experiences, a different relationship to your experience evolves; you learn to be less reactive even to painful experiences (whether physical or psychological), to allow the experience to be, to make space for the pain. And this is important, because the reactiveness is itself often a big part of what causes the difficulties that you may be struggling with.
By practising mindfulness in therapy you also increase your ability to distinguish between a thought and an actual experience. While this distinction may seem obvious at first, the reality is that a vast number of the personal and interpersonal difficulties that hold us back from living the life of fulfilment that we strive for are actually due to mistaking stories (thoughts, speculations, mind-readings, (mis)interpretations etc.) for facts (actual, lived experiences).
You may be suffering from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep problems, stress, traumatic emotions, or any other personal problem that is addressed in counselling and psychotherapy. Or you may be struggling to find motivation, to achieve your goals, to live up to your full potential, to find the right work-life balance, or to overcome any other challenge that is addressed by life coaching. Either way, mindfulness in therapy will help you achieve better and longer lasting positive outcomes.
If you wish to discuss how your own, personal issues can be addressed with mindfulness in therapy – whether counselling, psychotherapy, or life coaching – don’t hesitate, contact me today!
Mindfulness in therapy practice; benefits for therapists
As the body of research on the benefits of mindfulness in therapy for clients continues to grow, there is also more and more research being done on how mindfulness practice can be beneficial for therapists. Not only for the obvious purpose of being competent in their ability to guide clients through mindfulness-based practices, but also for their own skill and wellbeing as clinical practitioners.
Developing mindfulness skills through regular mindfulness practice helps the us, as therapist, to be present with clients; to be attentive to what is actually occurring in the present moment, for the client as well as for ourselves. Hence it helps us avoid losing ourselves in our own experience, or in our speculations and ideas about what is going on for the client. Mindfulness also develops our ability to perceive subtle information in the therapy situation; information that is already present on the fringes of our awareness, but that may otherwise go unnoticed.
And of course, mindfulness can be an immensely valuable self-support mechanism, in that it can help us cope and avoid becoming emotionally drained from the work we do.
To learn more about mindfulness practice, please visit this page: Mindfulness meditation. For clinical supervision, generally or with a particular emphasis on mindfulness in therapy practice, please visit this page: Clinical supervision.
Mindfulness skills training program
While there is ample evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness in therapy practice, and while positive outcomes from therapy are often greatly enhanced when clients have well developed mindfulness skills, not all therapists themselves have the skills and/or experience, or even the time required, to help their clients develop such mindfulness skills.
For the purpose of assisting therapists achieve better therapy outcomes with their clients, I have developed the Mindfulness skills training program, which works in parallel with the client’s regular treatment plan, yet without interfering with their treatment.
If you are a therapist and you recognise the value such skills could have for your client as an adjunct to the therapy that you are providing, or if you are a client in therapy and you recognise that mindfulness skills would be helpful to your therapy, you may be interested in reading more on this page: Mindfulness skills training program.
Note: The Mindfulness skills training program is also recommended for people who wish to enhance their mindfulness skills in general, but who are not interested in taking up formal mindfulness meditation practice as such.
Mindful Breathing Therapy
Mindful Breathing Therapy is a mindfulness-based, body-oriented psychotherapy technique that is increasingly becoming an alternative to cognitive and behavioural approaches in the treatment of e.g. anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and similar challenges to mental health and wellbeing.
While general practices of mindfulness in therapy typically do not prescribe any particular breathing patterns, Mindful Breathing Therapy applies mindfulness to a process called ‘conscious connected breathing’. All the benefits from general mindfulness practices are thus still present, yet with the added benefit of effectively bringing to the surface buried events of a distressing nature, unlocking the lingering effects of such events, and integrating them into normal healthy functioning.
Find out more about this psychotherapy approach on this page: Mindful Breathing Therapy