Mindfulness is a therapeutic approach that teaches clients how to use breathing exercises, meditation, and awareness to overcome psychological problems. Mindfulness-based therapies have been shown to be highly effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially in people who are not able to see results with other forms of more traditional therapies. Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) was created to help prevent relapse in people overcoming addictions. The evidence that exists suggests that this treatment works, but there is relatively little information about what factors influence the success of MBRP. Sarah Bowen of the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington recently conducted a study to see how between-session mindfulness practice and therapeutic alliance influenced the outcome of MBRP.
Bowen followed 93 individuals who were undergoing treatment for substance misuse as they embarked on 8 weeks of MBRP. She monitored the amount of between-session practice they engaged in and also interviewed them regarding the level of therapeutic alliance they experienced. The participants were assessed at the beginning of the treatment, at the end of the treatment, and again at 2 and 4 months follow-up. Bowen found that the level of between-session practice was directly predictive of outcome in the participants. The more practice, the better the participants responded to treatment. But Bowen discovered that the participants who practiced the most did not see better long-term outcomes than those who had less between-session mindfulness practice. However, the therapeutic bond, which did influence outcome immediately after the mindfulness treatment, also affected the long-term outcome of the participants.
Bowen believes that the effect of the mindfulness could decrease over time due to the impact of external conditions, such as life stressors and family members, but the effect of the therapeutic bond is maintained because that relationship is not affected by outside factors. To maintain the benefits achieved from between-session mindfulness, clients should focus on developing a support system of people who will encourage their mindfulness behaviors over time. Bowen added, “Future studies might offer further insight into how both mindfulness practice and therapeutic alliance are affecting changes in mindfulness and explore other factors inﬂuencing increases in and longer term maintenance of mindfulness in mindfulness-based therapies.”
Bowen, S., Kurz, A.S. Between-session practice and therapeutic alliance as predictors of mindfulness after mindfulness-based relapse prevention. Journal of Clinical Psychology 68.3 (2012): 236-45.
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