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Monday, October 6, 2014

Psychotherapy and the Mindful Self: The Benefits of Mindfulness in Therapy

In a prior article, Psychotherapy and the Mindful Self: What is Mindfulness?, I began a discussion about mindfulness by defining it, discussing its origins, describing some of the similarities between mindfulness and psychotherapy, and beginning to describe some of the benefits of combining mindfulness and therapy.

Psychotherapy and the Mindful Self:  The Benefits of Mindfulness in Therapy

As I mentioned in my prior article, many psychotherapists, especially therapists who value the importance of the mind-body connection, are now using mindfulness interventions as a resource with clients.

I often teach clients how to use mindfulness in therapy, and how to use mindfulness meditation to develop increased awareness of themselves and others.

Mindfulness meditation is usually associated with Vipassana, a form of meditation that comes from Theravada Buddhism.

The word Vipassana is a Pali word which means insight or awareness.  Vipassana is used to help develop awareness or mindfulness.

The Benefits of Using Mindfulness Interventions in Therapy

By using mindfulness in therapy, clients can:
  • increase their capacity for emotion regulation in therapy as well as in everyday life
  • decrease their reactivity to situations that would normally evoke a reactive response
  • decrease perseveration
  • increase their ability to be flexible in their responsiveness
  • increase attentional capacities
  • improve their interpersonal relationships
An Example of a Mindfulness Intervention in Therapy
An example of a mindfulness intervention, as it could be used in a therapy sessions, is as follows:

A therapist, who is working with a client who is processing a traumatic memory, is tracking what is going with the client during their session in terms of his emotions, breathing, facial expression, body language and overall demeanor.  

The therapist notices that as the client continues to talk about being physically abused by his father, the client has a far away gaze, his face has become pale, his jaw is clenched, his breathing is shallow and his body has become tense and rigid.

The therapist senses that the client is no longer in the here-and-now--he is back fully in the traumatic memory of being physically abused.

Rather than allowing the client to remain stuck in this traumatic response, the therapist helps the client to come back to the here-and-now by asking him to breathe and notice what he senses in his body.

As she watches the client increase his breathing, she asks him to slowly scan his body and notice what he is sensing.

As the client begins to calm down, the therapist reminds the client that he can use this mindfulness technique at any time when anything is bothering him.  This helps the client to feel empowered.

When the client is calmer, the therapist will ask the client if he wants to continue processing the traumatic memory or if he wants to stay in this calm state.  She leaves it up to the client, who is the best judge of what he needs at that moment.

Developing Mindfulness as a Skill
Like any new skill, for mindfulness to be effective, you need to practice it.

Many people find it helpful to use a mindfulness recording, like one of the recordings developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, to help guide them.

Developing this skill doesn't mean being "perfect" or judging yourself for not being where you want to be with your mindfulness practice.

In fact, practicing without judgment or attachment is a basic concept in mindfulness.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feeling anxious, depressed or struggling with unresolved trauma, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed mental health professional.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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