Author: Janessa Brown
Much clinical and research attention is currently oriented toward studying the efficacy and utilization of mindfulness-based approaches and practices to offset various aspects of mental health pathology. The term “mindfulness” lends itself to numerous descriptions and tends to differ from psychological to traditional perspectives. Central aspects, in regards to this paradigm from a psychological view, include paying attention in a purposeful manner, existing in the present moment (Im & Follette, 2016), orienting awareness toward one’s current experience, and practicing a disposition of acceptance and nonjudgment (Feldman et al., 2007). Though such practices are typically taught secularly from a Westernized psychological perspective, mindfulness originated in the roots of Buddha’s early teachings (Lee, 2017). From this emanating ideology, mindfulness profoundly refers to acute observation skills over all mental processes, a strong acuity to discern both dexterous and amateur qualities of mind, and a mental superiority to elicit memory to allow mindfulness practitioners to vividly recollect the details of any experience (Buddhaghosa, 2003). In line with this school of thought and being, the goal of mindfulness is to train and refine the mind to build the foundation to practice Buddhist teachings in support of cultivation rather than the production of an aspiring end goal (Lee, 2017).
As definitions of mindfulness differ between professional psychology, as influenced by Westernized practices, and the ideology of early Buddhism, so do the techniques one may utilize when practicing either discipline. Buddhists practice mindfulness largely through the use of silent meditation, either walking or sitting, and through the overall embodiment of this philosophy by being intentionally mindful in all moments of daily life (Karunadasa, 2014). Opposite the traditional practice of Buddhist mindfulness, Westernized society works through many methods—such as yoga stretching, guided and silent meditation, intentional breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, et cetera— to achieve moments of being fully present and in-tune with one’s body, mind, and spirit (Ghoncheh & Smith, 2003). Many of these contemporary methods have efficacious stress-reducing implications that later inspired the development of mindfulness-based psychotherapeutic interventions for mental health pathologies (Ghoncheh & Smith, 2003).
Among the many psychotherapeutic approaches that seek to integrate mindfulness techniques and contemporary therapies are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Mindfulness-Based Mind-Body Method (MBMB). MBSR is the only of these practices grounded in traditional Buddhist philosophy and lends its widespread use to an array of psychological and medical ailments (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). While MBCT primarily targets depressive symptoms and focuses on depression relapse prevention, DBT intervenes upon dysfunctional emotional-behavioral regulation, and ACT works to strengthen the functional contextualism of one’s cognitions (Chiesa & Malinowski, 2011). Likewise, MBMB promotes trauma-healing, resilience, and self-regulation of stress, emotions, and behaviors (Bethell et al., 2016).
Though these devices are similar in their aims, each modality utilizes practices unique to their purposes. MBSR and MBCT use body scanning, sitting meditation, and yoga practice to develop mindful attention, an ability to engage in nonjudgmental awareness of cognitions, and to redirect thoughts and distractions that come to mind (Segal et al. 2002). However, in DBT, clients practice accepting themselves, their histories, and their current situations (Baer, 2003) through mindful behavioral skills training, exposure-based strategies, cognitive modifications, et cetera, while working intensively to change their behaviors and environments to build a more positive life (Chiesa & Malinowski, 2003). ACT, on the other hand, encourages one to self-observe and recognize a capability to monitor one’s own bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions by externalizing these phenomena outside of the self (Pots et al., 2016), while also practicing being present, adopting a transcendent sense of self, purposefully choosing life directions, and incorporating exposure, skills acquisition, and goal setting strategies (Haye et al., 2006). MBMB, however, focuses on being purposeful moment-to-moment, by practicing awareness of one’s own breathing, body sensations, emotions, and thoughts through the use of biofeedback, guided imagery, yoga, hypnosis, and meditation (Bethell et al., 2016). The aforementioned approaches differ in the specifics of their technique applications and targeted pathologies, but continue to exist within the same mindfulness spirit and therefore fall under the umbrella term of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI; Chiesa & Malinowski, 2011). Because MBIs can be customized given an individual’s presenting problem, as well as their effectiveness in the empirical literature, this family of interventions is ideal for implementation across a range of clinical settings and presentations.
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