What are Mindfulness-based treatments (MBT)?

What are Mindfulness-based treatments (MBT)?

Mindfulness-based treatments (MBT) involve a set of interventions that use direct meditation, other mindfulness exercises, acceptance, non-judgment, and compassion.

Among meditation based treatments are: Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which aims to reduce stress among patients suffering from medical condition,  Segal’s Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which combined cognitive therapy principles with mindfulness meditation with the aim to prevent relapse of major depressive episodes, and Mindfulness-Meditation Relapse Prevention (MMRP), which targets alcohol relapse prevention. A long list of treatments was developed for specific aims (e.g., for fatigue among pregnant women, stress among caregivers, or binge-eating).

Other treatments integrated also some Eastern mindfulness techniques without including a formal practice of meditation, among them are: Steven Hayes’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Both therapies are among what is called the “third wave” of cognitive behavioral interventions. In ACT, mindfulness is broadly defined as a combination of acceptance (i.e., the opposite of avoidance), detachment from thoughts, and contact with the present moment, whereas in DBT, mindfulness is taught through interactions with the therapist and through the practice of intentionally observing, describing, and participating in reality nonjudgmentally and with effectiveness (i.e., using skillful means).

Other mindfulness treatments are compassion-based, which include at times specific types of meditation called compassionate meditation (CM) or Loving-kindness meditation (LKM). Loving-kindness and compassion are closely linked to the Buddhist notion that all living beings are inextricably connected. CM focuses awareness upon alleviating the suffering of all beings, and LKM upon loving and kind concern for their well-being. Both practices involve mental exercises fostering warm and compassionate/loving kind feelings toward self and others (including friends and enemies). These exercises can be practiced at any time and in different postures, e.g., while sitting or lying and even while walking. Both CM and LKM aim to train the mind to compassion, called Compassionate Mind Training (CMT). Based on CMT, the most known compassion based treatment is Paul Gilbert’s Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) aiming to teach participants to generate feelings of warmth and self-acceptance in response to their self-critical thoughts.

MBT can also involving teaching specific skills in relationship with others, i.e., interpersonal and social relations (e.g., mindful parenting, mindful intimacy, and mindful teaching).

Even though the above treatments can be considered different in terms of some of the theories and practices they teach, all of them aim at improving physical and emotional well-being among individuals via enhancing emotional regulation by cultivating an open, curious, flexible, and tuned to the present attention and awareness. MBT were empirically investigated in clinical studies and results are overwhelmingly supporting their effectiveness for both physical/medical conditions and emotional/psychological difficulties. In fact, recent results showed that MBT are at the minimum equivalent or superior to other treatments.

Who could benefit from MBT?

According to several scientific studies, MBT are helpful for people of all ages. In fact, MBT were tested in adults, adolescents, children, spouses, families, and the elderly, and everyone benefited. You do not need to suffer from a physical illness or psychological/emotional difficulty to benefit from MBT; you neither need to have specific background or knowledge/experience. MBT can be helpful for a child struggling at school, an athlete seeking to increase his endurance or performance, a married man looking to renew his relationship with his wife and children, a business woman wanting to excel at her trade, and a scientist pursuing academic excellence. Briefly, MBT is for everyone!

Who is an MBT therapist?

An effective MBT therapist is one who practices mindfulness and meditation and has strong theoretical and practical knowledge and experience in MBT besides being acquainted with the condition for which you are seeking help.

You can test yourself your therapist, a mindful therapist:

–       makes the patient feel fully accepted despite any kind of failure or difficulty;

–       increases the patient’s self-compassion and mental flexibility;

–       facilitates change by modeling it;

Briefly, when going to therapy, the selection of a mindful therapist is crucial to improve outcomes. Be aware and mindful to differentiate those who claim mindfulness from those who live by it!