Mindfulness and Psychology
In recent years mindfulness meditation has become increasingly popular, not only in our culture generally but also as an important component of modern medicine. Over 30 years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction developed at the University of Massachusetts and Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy developed at the University of Washington introduced a variety of mindfulness skills to the modern psychological and scientific communities. Since then the role of mindfulness meditation in clinical practice and scientific research has continued to grow. And a new generation of clinical psychologists like Dr. Tara Brach have continued to integrate mindfulness into their individual clinical practice. We consider ourselves to be part of this movement.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness based treatment approach for individuals with a wide range of conditions that have traditionally been difficult to treat. Mindfulness-based stress reduction combines elements of yoga and mindfulness meditation to create a unique program of treatment that can be taught in a group setting in as little as eight weeks. MBSR was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and was the first mainstream medical treatment to include mindfulness meditation. A number of grants provided by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Alternative and Complimentary Medicine have been used to research the effectiveness of MBSR. Research has shown that participants benefit both mentally and physically from the MBSR program and significant gains were seen in patient’s self-esteem while their medication use diminished. MBSR has been modified over the past three decades to treat many chronic disorders from chronic pain to anxiety and depression and is now being used in hundreds of medical clinics all over the world. Bill Moyers made an excellent documentary on Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and MBSR for PBS called “Healing From Within” that can be easily found for free online.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington to treat individuals with severe psychological symptoms like chronic self-harm and suicidal behavior. Dialectical Behavior Therapy was one of the first modern psychological treatment approaches to grow directly out of empirical psychological research. Dr. Linehan conducted years of close meticulous study of individuals with severe psychopathology and eventually developed a powerful treatment approach based on the combination of mindfulness meditation with some of the best psychological skills other forms of therapy had to offer. The result, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and the theory of “emotion regulation” it is built upon has revolutionized the treatment of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder and other types of severe psychological distress. Dr. Readett was trained at Riverbend Community Mental Health in one of the first official DBT training programs developed by Dr. Linehan and her staff. Over the past 20 years Dr. Readett has worked with many individuals using a DBT model, and has run DBT treatment groups in Massachusetts, California, and New York. He believes the DBT concept of Wise Mind to be an especially important contribution to modern psychological treatment.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness-Based cognitive therapy is based on MBSR and was originally developed by John Teasdale and his colleagues to help individuals with recurrent depression which is often considered notoriously hard to treat. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy is built on the theory that if clients can become more aware of their thinking process they can better recognize depressive thoughts for what they are thereby avoiding getting caught in a depressive cycles of thinking. Mindfulness meditation is very effective at increasing the type of self-awareness that can put clients back in control of their thoughts and emotional experience. By teaching them how to recognize and accept their experience rather than resisting or fighting against it, mindfulness meditation provides a new approach for dealing with the kind of faulty cognitions that often contribute to a recurring depressive episode.
Many practicing clinical psychologists, social workers, and other therapists have begun to incorporate the techniques of mindfulness meditation into their own therapy practice. Research continues to demonstrate the remarkable power of meditation to treat a number of common chronic conditions, and mindfulness based therapies are now being used to treat all of the most common psychological problems including anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. Some clinical psychologists like Dr. Tara Brach have begun to use the techniques and insights of meditation as a comprehensive foundation for their work with clients. If you are interested in learning more about this approach we recommend Dr. Brach’s latest book True Refuge. It is a tour de force of this promising young field and a great example of how the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation can play a central role in modern therapy.