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Mindfulness and Psychotherapy:

Mindfulness under different names has been used in psychotherapy since its early development. William James appreciated the value of such practices in the early 1900’s (Epstein, 1995). Freud also strongly encouraged what he referred to as “evenly suspended attention” as defined by Freud (1912) could be called mindfulness. Later, the work of Fritz Perls and Gestalt therapy and Eugene Gendlin highlighted the value of similar practices. More recently, Marcia Linehan and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Segal et al and Mindfulness based Cognitive Therapy, and Hayes et al and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy have increased the emphasis on the value of mindfulness practice.

The early proponents of a mindfulness approach saw its main benefit as being for the therapist who would be more effective if they were to be mindful in their therapeutic work. More recent work has emphasised the benefit for the client in learning and practicing mindfulness. Currently, the weight of support is for the therapist to be mindful in their therapeutic work while at the same time sharing mindfulness skills with their clients.

Mindfulness is currently being referred to as the third wave in psychology. It is clearly early days in the research of mindfulness in therapy, but the research to date cannot be ignored. The value of mindfulness in psychotherapy is that it does not preclude a therapist’s psychotherapeutic stance whether it is, psychoanalytical, behavioural, cognitive, narrative or eclectic. Any approach could be linked with mindfulness and it is hard not to find a form of reference to a mindfulness practice in the various approaches.

The research has yet to define what it is within the mindfulness approaches and within the concept of mindfulness that works, so it is useful to maintain balance between openness and a cautious perspective when applying mindfulness in a therapeutic context. It is always important to let the immediate experience of the client; your professional wisdom and the available research guide your work with your client.

Professional supervision to health professionals for mindfulness based therapy’s is available. Contact Michael for appointments or to discuss.

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