As a psychologist, I am consistently attempting to broaden my education, training, and understanding of new research. The learning is a lifelong endeavor that offers opportunity to continually inform my clinical practice. I also like to share this type of information so folks who pursue therapy or who are interested in mental health and wellness can also stay informed.
In the past several decades or so, there have been new therapeutic approaches to treat a variety of mental health challenges.
With regard to cognitive-behavioral (CBT) approaches, mindfulness-based approaches have exploded upon the psychotherapy scene. These approaches include Linehan's Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Hayes' and Strosahl's Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Each approach has different theoretical explanations, techniques, and practices, however, all of these approaches are rooted in mindfulness: promoting a present orientation and reinforcing non-judgment of the present moment.
Why are these approaches so popular?
These approaches have been researched as "evidenced-based" practices, meaning that the approaches have been empirical tested and determined to have had positive health and psychological benefits for the people that participated in the studies (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Hayes, et. al., 2006, & Linehan, et. al., 2006). The research base appears to reflect that many of these approaches work in addressing concerns ranging from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and personality disorders. When implemented by trained professionals, these approaches appear to work for a variety people with a variety of mental health concerns. It should also be noted that there are never guarantees for specific outcomes in therapy because a variety of factors can impact the psychotherapeutic experience.
The techniques within each of these approaches can be practiced in everyday life. The practice is not merely a thinking or intellectual exercise, but something that can be experienced and felt. Also, in a few of the approaches metaphors are used to further explain the concepts which makes things easier to understand.
- Practical and Simple (Yet Very Challenging!)
Typically, the instructions for mindfulness practice are simple, despite the actual practices themselves being somewhat more challenging. For example, mindfulness meditation instructions could be “pay attention to your breathe” or “notice the sensations in your body.” Actually staying with these instructions and implementing them over time can be a much more difficult task, however. If you are curious, there are a number of online guided meditations that are available to try out.
- Foster Greater Flexibility in Thought and Behavior
Many of these approaches reinforce having options, choices, and discovering new ways to experience the world.
Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Health Benefits. A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35-43.
Hayes, S. C., Luoma, J. B., Bond, F. W., Masuda, A., & Lillis, J. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy: Model, processes and outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 1-25.
Linehan, et al. (2006). Two-Year Randomized Control Trial and Follow Up of Dialectical Behavior Therapy versus Therapy By Experts. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 757 - 766.