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Mindfulness Approaches

What is Mindfulness?

Some Definitions-:

  • “Sati” (Indian root to remember). Remembering to be in the present; not day dreaming in the past (depression) or future (anxiety).
  • “A particular way of paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Jon Kabat- Zin, 2004)
  • “To live in the moment, notice what is happening and make choices as to how you respond, rather than being driven by habitual reactions.” (Vidyamala Burch, Breathworks, 2008)

Mindful approaches to living and structured meditation practice have been part of Eastern and Western religious and spiritual traditions for thousands of years. In more recent times, psychology has adapted some of these practices into modern treatments for psychological and emotional problems and as adjunct treatments in physical illness and pain. Some examples of how these approaches have been integrated into modern psychology and applied to psychological and physical illness and distress are given below.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Working as a psychologist within the United States Hospital system in the 1980’s, Jon Kabat-Zinn found himself receiving referrals from medical practitioners of clients who were struggling with pain and illness and for whom modern medicine could offer no more help. From his interest in Buddhist teachings and psychology, he developed his now world renowned MBSR program. Originally designed to help improve the quality of life of people suffering chronic pain and illness, the program is now used world-wide for people suffering physical and psychological illness and is also used extensively in helping people manage all manifestations of stress in their lives.  Thousands of therapists have undertaken MBSR facilitator training and a recorded version of the program is available as a TV channel in many American hospitals.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

In the 1990’s Segal, Williams and Teasdale, who were leading exponents of cognitive therapy as a treatment for depression, developed a program integrating mindfulness and cognitive therapy. The approach is designed as a method for breaking the cycle of recurrent depression. The approach offers a combination of Eastern Mindfulness and Western Cognitive Therapy approaches to psychological health and well-being. MBCT has since been shown to also be an effective treatment for other conditions such as anxiety and stress.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

One of the more recent advances in the “third wave” of cognitive therapies, Acceptance and  Commitment Therapy has been shown to be effective across a wide range of psychological problems e.g. anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, anger management, couples relationships, PTSD and chronic pain.  The approach seeks to encourage people to learn to accept difficult experiences that are out of their control and at the same time to commit to make changes to things within their control in order to improve their lives. Mindfulness skills are taught to help people to handle difficult thoughts and feelings so that they have less impact on their lives. Clients are also given exercises and tasks that seek to reconnect them to what is important in their lives and to begin to take active steps towards living in line with these values in order to create a richer, more meaningful life.

Breathworks-Mindfulness for Chronic Pain and Illness

This program teaches those living with pain, stress and illness, the skills to enrich and transform their lives in society and in the workplace. Its aim is to empower clients to take control of their own well-being and to live with confidence again. Although the programs main emphasis was originally on managing pain and illness, it has now also been successfully adapted for stress, rehabilitation and recovery and for teachers experiencing stress and burn out. The program emphasises acceptance of pain and suffering, uses mindfulness skills to break automatic patterns of reactivity which increase suffering, encourages clients to develop a new relationship with their pain/illness and to reinstate pleasure and kindness in their lives.

Christine Phillips is a Clinical and Health Psychologist who has also undertaken extensive trainings in Australia and the United Kingdom in MBCT, MBSR, ACT and Breathworks-Mindfulness. Christine Phillips Psychology offers these treatments as individual and group programs across a variety of psychological and emotional problems and for chronic pain and illness.

Some References
  • Full Catastrophe Living. Jon Kabat-Zinn (2005). Delta Trade Paperbacks, Random House Inc.
  • Wherever You Go There You Are. Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression. Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002). The Guilford Press.
  • The Mindful Way Through Depression. Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Guilford Press.
  • Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life. Stephen Hayes (2005). New Harbinger Publications.
  • Living Well with Pain and Illness. Vidyamala Burch (2008). Piatkus Books, London.


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