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What is Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Mindfulness-based psychotherapy is a type of psychological therapy that combines Buddhist mindfulness techniques with cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy treatment can increase happiness, introspection, and compassion for self and others while reducing stress. It is used to treat depression, mood disorders, and chronic illness.

Mindfulness-based psychotherapy was founded by Zindel Segal, John Teasdale, and Mark Williams. It was adapted from a program called mindfulness-based stress reduction, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Segal, Teasdale, and Williams integrated the techniques of mindfulness-based stress reduction to try and treat major depressive disorder as well.

The goal of mindfulness-based psychotherapy is to increase relaxation and happiness by enlivening greater self-awareness, introspection, and compassion for self and others. It is psychodynamic, meaning that this therapy targets the underlying causes of symptoms. It is also cognitive-behavioral, meaning that it brings awareness to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. From awareness of these thoughts and behaviors comes a better chance of changing them for healthier and more positive thoughts and actions.

Mindfulness-based psychotherapy is an effective treatment or supplementary treatment for many psychological disorders. Anxiety, trauma, or emotion dysregulation can all be treated with this type of therapy. Chronic pain and illness can also be treated with mindfulness-based therapy if the underlying cause is psychological, though the therapy is most effective against depression. Occurrences of relapse of major depressive episodes after this type of treatment are on par with anti-depressant medication therapy.

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Mindfulness-based psychotherapy treatment generally takes about eight weeks to complete. It consists of weekly two-hour classes, working directly with a trained psychotherapist. Most therapists will assign homework to be done in between sessions. The therapist will attempt to bring clarity to the client about compulsive or negative thought or behavior patterns and help him or her stop reacting to situations automatically and start responding in a more objective manner.

Many people suffering from psychological disorders are suffering because they learned, usually in early childhood, to ignore and suppress their genuine feelings or thoughts. A patient undergoing mindfulness-based psychotherapy will learn how to listen to his or her body in the moment and without judgment. Listening to the body might mean paying attention to thoughts and feelings, instead of trying to push them away or noticing physical symptom like chronic pain or headaches.

The mindfulness aspect of mindfulness-based psychotherapy is based on some of the methodologies of Buddhism. These methodologies include meditation, which is a quiet focusing of the mind. It is very effective in reducing stress and anxiety. It can also help facilitate introspection and a deeper, more understanding relationship to the self by removing distractions and allowing one to hear what the mind and body are trying to convey.

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