The annual convention of the American Psychological Association offers a notable collection of presentations and lectures, often from some of the leading names in psychology. This year, two particularly high-profile presenters at the APA Convention were Sir Michael Rutter, MD and Steven Hayes, Ph.D. Sir Rutter, who is widely published and has been described as “the father of modern child psychiatry,” is currently with King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. Dr. Steven Hayes focuses on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a somewhat-controversial variant of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and is currently with the University of Nevada, Reno. Both touched on a number of topics, but one theme that laced through both of their presentations was that of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist meditation; as such, it dates back hundreds of years. It was introduced to the west largely by Thich Nhat Hanh and other teachers. In its most basic form, mindfulness is an awareness and acceptance of one’s thoughts. Being able to identify and accept thoughts and feelings, rather than deny or discourage them, helps people to work through these feelings toward different reactions in the future. By the 1970s, psychologists and therapists were beginning to incorporate elements of mindfulness into their practices, and it has seen a particular rise in psychotherapy over the last several years.
The more widespread mindfulness becomes as an element of therapy, meditation, and personal reflection, the more emphasis there is on researching its efficacy. Studies have shown consistently that mindfulness helps reduce stress, elevate positive emotions, and encourage other positive outcomes. It is used in by therapists and counselors to help people who struggle with depression and anxiety, who have survived abuse and trauma, and even to help abusive mothers develop healthier parenting skills. At the APA conference, Sir Rutter spoke of mindfulness as it pertains to fostering overall psychological resilience, and Dr. Hayes spoke of mindfulness’s role in achieving a personal balance of “psychological flexibility” in everyday life.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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