Mindfulness Skills and Psychotherapy Outcomes
There are at least ten good reasons why mindfulness training and regular practice may improve psychotherapy outcomes. These reasons assume the training is presented by a well-trained clinician-mindfulness practitioner. Of course improved outcomes also depend upon the client’s motivation and energy to actually practice mindfulness skills on a regular basis. One way to ensure this is to integrate such practices into every therapy session. Here is the list.
- Intention: Mutual intention to learn and practice mindfulness skills is required. Intention may also carry over to the client’s desire to make changes for the better. For both parties regular practice opens doorways to improved emotion regulation and awareness as well as possible spiritual development.
- Attention: Attention is required for regular mindfulness practice. Such attentional improvements may help clients notice more clearly unhelpful patterns in cognition, emotion, behavior, and sensation. This also applies to therapists, who may find these skills improve their acuity in noticing small but important problems and changes in client behaviors.
- Awareness: Intention and attention tend to improve one’s level of awareness – for both positive and negative experiences. Awareness skills may be open or focused. Improved awareness of unhelpful experiences may challenge clients, but it will also help both parties to see more clearly what is important and what changes are needed. When awareness is matched with behavioral task analysis, it allow clear measurement of progress.
- Emotion Regulation: Improvement in emotion regulation is, perhaps, the single most beneficial change for both clients and therapists. Integrating various approaches from mindfulness-based therapies will ensure ample opportunity to practice emotion regulation, which is the single most problematic issue in most common problem areas (anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions, chronic pain).
- Mindfulness-Based Skills: Mindfulness-based therapies (MBSR, MBCT, ACT, etc.) offer a wide array of skill practices for both clients and therapist. Therefore, it is possible to match client needs with appropriate skill practices in sessions and at home. Also the “self” of both parties is more strongly present in such practices. Who is this observer experiencing these conditions and situations of life.
- Subject-Object Observation: In the many problems people experience it is possible to match client needs with a specific set of mindfulness skills. The ongoing practice of subject-object observation (often without evaluation) allows various transformational experiences for clients. One that is most common is that thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensation are internal and external experiences that the “I” is having. However, such experience is NOT-ME, they are simply current experiences in life. They are impermanent. The same is true for therapists. Also therapist may be able to use this formal process to investigate the quality of the therapeutic relationship and its core alliance. Transference and countertransference responses are Important!
- Interoception: Along with emotion regulation interoception skill, or the ability to recognize internal body sensations arising and the emotions that follow, is highly valuable in therapy. This allows both clients and therapists to recognize precursors to problematic thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensations. It enables a short window of time to act to prevent or mitigate negative experiences. It also brings in awareness of somatosensory experiences. Our sensory experiences are what we “are” in life. Awareness os the “me.”
- There is ample, high quality research supporting the use of mindfulness skills in improving both depression and anxiety. Google it.
- There is high quality research supporting the use of mindfulness skills in improving chronic pain. Google it.
- There is good evidence supporting the use of mindfulness skills in improving both trauma symptoms and challenges, as well as improving addictive behaviors. These improvements come mainly from improved awareness, emotional self-regulation, and interoceptive practices.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness