In recent years, cognitive behavioural approaches to addiction therapy have been supplemented with aspects of mindfulness, known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT.
If you have been tuned in to celebrity trends lately, you will have noticed that meditation has become popular in star-studded circles. With big names like Oprah Winfrey, Russell Brand and Katy Perry extolling the benefits of mindfulness, it’s little wonder that awareness practices are gaining momentum in many aspects of the culture, from business to sports .
Meditation has been reaching a popular audience, as well, with well-known books by authors such as Eckhart Tolle and Thích Nhất Hạnh challenging us to be present, mindful and compassionate. And what is true for everyday people is also true for those who have addictions or other mental health conditions.
A little history is in order to help locate these new trends in mindfulness in addiction treatment. In the last 20 years, cognitive behavioural approaches have become the predominant research-validated treatments for substance abuse disorders. However, in recent years, these approaches have been supplemented with aspects of mindfulness, and are known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT. To understand how these two approaches complement each other, we will first take a look at cognitive-behavioural therapies.
Such therapies help people recover by introducing new skills designed to change the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to substance use. The emphasis is on self-efficacy, or teaching those in recovery skills that they can then use on their own. In addition, the role of emotions, effective ways of responding to emotions, and actually developing a more positive mood are also addressed as ways of recovering from addiction. However, in cognitive and behavioural therapies, such interventions primarily take the form of new behaviours and cognitions designed to influence emotions.
Many people with substance abuse disorders also have co-occurring mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. In many ways, cognitive behavioural therapies are a good treatment option, as their focus on thoughts and behaviours helps to treat the mood disorder. However, the addition of mindfulness-based therapies offers additional benefits to existing treatment protocols.
Therapies with a mindfulness component directly address emotional regulation issues – using additional techniques not found in the traditional cognitive-behavioral approach. These techniques focus on observation, awareness and acceptance of uncomfortable emotions – as well as a range of meditative practices designed to develop awareness more generally. A simple example might include sitting and observing breathing in and out. The benefits of mindfulness to mental, physical, and emotional health are well-documented, and those benefits are beginning to be researched with addiction treatment. At The Cabin we have long been using mindfulness as a key component of our treatment programme with excellent results.
If you are concerned about addiction, please contact a specialist at The Cabin Chiang Mai for a consultation.