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Monday, 15 October 2018

Mindfulness in your Therapy Practice

Whatever kind of therapy you offer your clients, it would be hard not to be aware of mindfulness which has become a popular intervention in pretty much every well-being approach. So what’s all the fuss about, and should you be using it with your clients?
 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about being ‘present’ – aware and non-judgementally focussed on what is happening in the moment. It arose from Hindu and Buddhist spiritual practices, but over time has become secularised and separated from them so that it is acceptable to those who follow other religions, or none at all. In fact, part of its appeal to some people is that it can be used as a practical stress management tool without carrying any of the emotional or spiritual ‘baggage’ often attributed to meditation and even self-hypnosis.

The value of mindfulness

Mindfulness is now so popular it has become big business – the Global Wellness Institute values the industry at $3.72trillion and the top mindfulness app, Headspace, has been downloaded more than eleven million times, giving it an annual revenue of £50million.
 

Does mindfulness work?

For many people, yes it does. Here are just a few findings about it:
  • Mindfulness increases pre-frontal cortex activity in the brain, essentially ‘turning down’ the stress response
  • An 8-week course of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) lowered the level of the stress hormone ACTH and inflammatory protein molecules by around 15%
  • In another study, those using MBSR showed an increase in grey matter in the brain in areas associated with learning, memory and emotional processing
MBSR has also been used to improve chronic pain and fatigue, depression, anxiety, life-stress, psoriasis, cancer, executive control (problem-solving skills), weight loss, and smoking cessation results.
 

Mindfulness and therapists

There is evidence to suggest that therapists can benefit from using mindfulness as well as their clients. You can probably guess at most of the benefits, such as avoiding stress and burnout, and increasing concentration, compassion and empathy. But there are also specific benefits, such as being able to listen to clients mindfully or coping with your own reactions if your client is describing something emotional or distressing; some research even shows that therapists who practice mindfulness are rated more highly than those who don’t for warmth or understanding.
 

Mindfulness and therapy: how can mindfulness help my clients?

Mindfulness training talks about the difference between ‘mindless’ and ‘mindful’ behaviours. When you are acting ‘mindlessly’ you are not really paying attention. Think about driving, for example, and how easy it can be to take a wrong turn because it’s the way you usually go. You can experience automatic negative thoughts and feelings like this too.
 
The opposite of this is to act ‘mindfully’, becoming aware of our reactions as they happen, so we can learn to accept or control them, or choose to react differently.
 
For clients, mindless behaviours are those which they’re carried out so many times that they’re no longer really aware of doing them – the kind of situation described as being on ‘automatic pilot’. An example might be snacking, where your client comes home from work, checks her phone in front of the TV, and simultaneously finishes a huge bag of sweets without really noticing how many she’s had.  Snacking mindfully, on the other hand, would mean she:
 
  • rates her hunger level, and confirms that the feeling she’s experiencing is hunger and not something else (e.g. boredom, tiredness, a need for comfort)
  • removes distractions from the experience of eating (turns off phone, TV, etc)
  • eats slowly and chews thoroughly, rating her hunger levels again periodically
  • becomes aware of how the food affects all her senses – taste, texture, smell, sight, hearing
  • becomes aware of any changes in the sensory experiences as she eats
 
By immersing themselves entirely in the process of snacking, clients will tend to be more aware of how much they have eaten, and when they are full, leading to a reduction in overall intake.
Similar approaches can be used for cravings of all kinds – the best-known approach is RAIN (Relax into the feeling, Allow it to be there, Investigate bodily sensations, Note what is happening from moment to moment).

Would you like to know more?

There is plenty of information online, but if you would like to have it conveniently in one place, we offer an accredited (level 2) home-study course on Mindfulness for Therapists, suitable for talking therapists of all kinds. This includes links to hundreds of interventions you can use with your clients. You can find out more about the course HERE.
 
 

 

 
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Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
Find out more about Debbie's services on
Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training - multi accredited hypnotherapy practitioner training, taster days and foundation levels.
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