Founder, Description, Philosophy
Mindfulness originated with eastern practices in various religions and secular traditions. People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years. Most practitioners in the West learned it from Buddhism and Hinduism. Many yoga practices also incorporate mindfulness in their repertoire. Jon Kabat-Zinn is the person most commonly associated with bringing mindfulness to the West. Mindfulness alone is not considered a therapeutic approach however this technique is used in many forms of psychotherapy as a tool to help clients pay attention and stay present in the moment and has increasingly gained popularity in recent years. The basic premise of mindfulness is learning to accept and tolerate discomfort and only then make necessary changes in one’s life. An important caveat is that this practice is not about being happy, but about learning to be with what is and find acceptance. One core belief of mindfulness is that resistance to what causes suffering is a significant source of suffering in most people.
What type of problems is this approach used to treat and what populations can it serve?
The technique can be used with almost anyone and works to develop a person’s ability to stay focused and be attentive. It has been shown to decrease stress levels, reduce harmful ruminating, protect against depression, and anxiety, reduces emotional reactivity and improves cognitive flexibility. Mindfulness practice can also be helpful for chronic pain, stress/burnout, sexual difficulties, sleep disturbances, increased life satisfaction, and perfectionism.
What does this approach look like in practice? What are some types of interventions?
This approach can be done individually in session with your therapist but can also be done in a group environment with a trained professional. The sessions could include learning the skill of mindfulness through exercises and meditation (both in session and as homework) or could include the therapist’s own practice and way of being attuned and present in the moment with the client. Some of the more common exercises done in mindfulness-based therapy include body scanning, learning the mindfulness of breath, sounds, and thoughts, mountain meditation, non-guided breath focus, and acceptance of thoughts and feelings exercise. These are short exercises that are typically done at the beginning of the sessions to help the client get focused and relaxed.
American Psychological Association