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MINDFULNESS - its place in today's world of counselling and psychotherapy

More and more people are becoming aware of "Mindfulness" as a therapeutic approach. In some areas the NHS now offers Mindfulness Training courses based on the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programmes developed by Jon Kabat-Zin and others. Post-graduate therapist training programmes are now offered by Oxford, Bangor and Exeter Universities.

But what is Mindfulness - this new kid on the block in the world of counselling and psychotherapy?

For a start, it's not as new as some might think. It's based on meditation practices that people have been using to relieve their unhappiness as far back as the time of the Buddha, 2,500 years ago. What is new is its growing integration into contemporary psychology in the West. 

Mindfulness is a pragmatic response to emotional and psychological distress, which is increasingly being backed by neuro-scientific evidence of its beneficial effects on how our brains work. Briefly, Mindfulness training teaches people how to use meditation to help them become more aware of their moment to moment experience, physically, mentally and emotionally. John Teasdale, who has also been involved in developing the MBSR and MBCT programmes, describes its benefits:  

"People find mindfulness training helpful in managing everyday life and emotional problems because awareness allows us to know more clearly what is happening in and around us in each moment; it allows us to respond to difficulties consciously and skilfully, rather than with the automatic habitual responses that often make things worse; and it allows us to sample a way of being that is freer, and less driven by the need to have things be a particular way" (2).

For many people, being introduced to Mindfulness is life transforming and the 8 week training programmes give them skills they can continue to develop. For some, however, extra support is needed. Practicing Mindfulness can make us more aware of current personal difficulties and unresolved issues. It can also result in things that we have been denying to awareness for a considerable time coming to the surface.

Working through these issues, whilst continuing to develop mindful awareness, can be helped by a supportive therapeutic relationship. A counsellor or psychotherapist who has personal experience of mindfulness and its benefits will have an insight into the process her/his client is going through, whilst knowing that the experience of that process is unique for each individual.

(2) Quoted from "Insight Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reductionn/Cognitive Therapy" www.gaiahouse.co.uk (Resources page).

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