Leading rehabilitation centres across the globe have been adopting yoga and mindful meditation into their programmes, owing to the unique blend of benefits bestowed by these ancient practices, just one of which involves the lowering of stress hormone levels. In this post we shall discuss gold standard therapies for rehabilitation, highlighting the ways in which mindfulness can enhance their healing abilities:
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): This is a cognitive-behavioural type of treatment developed at the University of Washington by Marsha Linehan, to help clients with self-harming and suicidal tendencies. Since its inception, it has come to be used to treat many challenging mental conditions, including PTSD and addiction. The aim is to gently help the patient realise the connection between how they think, feel and behave, and the way changing just one of these three processes can have beneficial effects on wellbeing. DBT invites the patient and the therapist to accept reality while being open to positive change. Some skills taught by the therapist to the patient include mindfulness (observing, describing and participating in a situation without judging it), interpersonal communication skills, emotional regulation and distress tolerance.
Mindfulness—Based Stress Reduction: This therapy is considered a complement to traditional medical and psychological treatments and is used with a wide variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and fatigue. Patients are taught to “pay attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” By becoming aware of their thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise, patients can become much more in tune to emotions such as stress, which are an important factor in drug use and relapses. Important studies have shown that mindfulness limits experiential avoidance by promoting nonjudgmental acceptance of the thoughts and emotions one is encountering. Mindfulness also interrupts the tendency to respond to tension via substance abuse. Mindfulness practice has been proven to help with cravings, by teaching us to react with awareness rather than automatically.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy involves accepting that some things have escaped beyond their control, while taking positive steps to make a change. Therapists help patients (and those seeking to overcome addiction) how to deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively, using mindfulness skills to find positive outlets for emotions such as stress, without the need to resort to drugs and alcohol. Patients are also taught to discover and stay true to their core values in life; those which alone are capable of inspiring them to embrace real, lasting change.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: The core of this type of therapy is to become acquainted with the states of mind that can lead to drug use, while learning to develop a new relationship to these feelings. Those who seek an escape from stress, conflict and anger through drugs, can learn to control their ‘fight or flight response,’ which is invoked when we are forced to face stressful or traumatic circumstances. Mindfulness invokes the parasympathetic response, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure and enabling us to remain in the present moment. Mindfulness can also be used to deal with the anxiety, pain and depression which ensues when an addict attempts to kick the habit. A study published in the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine has shown that mindfulness meditation in particular can help curb stress and pain to a significant degree, thereby making the practice ideal for individuals facing difficult life situations and persons seeking rehabilitation treatment. Mindfulness is also commonly used in Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention therapy, which focuses on being finely tuned into the circumstances, people, situations and emotions that can lead to a relapse.
Mindfulness, whether used as an independent technique or in meditation and yoga sessions, has been found in numerous studies to have beneficial effects for those undergoing rehabilitation treatment. Additionally, mindfulness based interventions appear safe and are highly satisfying for those relying on them and the positive effects are long-lasting. This has led specialists in the field of drug rehabilitation to rely on mindfulness techniques as part of both inpatient and outpatient programmes. Like yoga, Tai Chi and Nature and horticultural therapy, mindfulness is a natural yet powerful way to curb stress, and give the mind the time it needs to formulate successful ways to face burdens that can sometimes seem insurmountable.