I’m including this study here because I personally ascribe to this approach and if I think about the sober bloggers that I know, Mrs D in particular, I know that this is a tool used with great success.
Promising signs – but from a single study at a single treatment agency – that integrating Buddhism-inspired mindfulness-based elements creates a more effective supplement to usual (in the US context) 12-step based aftercare than a purely cognitive behavioural approach, helping patients sustain gains from initial intensive treatment.
Summary The featured study tested an intervention based on Buddhism-inspired mindfulness meditation as way of sustaining the gains made by patients who have completed initial intensive treatment. The therapy trains people to focus their attention on emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment and to adopt an accepting and nonjudgmental stance to these experiences. Such controlled attention can be learned through training in meditation, hence ‘mindfulness meditation’. Benefits may for example include the detached self-observation of one’s desires and plans to obtain and use drugs, dissociating these from their emotional force.
Meditation has been incorporated in many therapeutic programmes, commonly in the form of mindfulness-based stress reduction, originally developed for management of chronic pain and stress-related disorders. The usual course consists of eight weekly therapist-led group sessions, one full-day retreat, and daily ‘homework’ assignments. Mindfulness is central to dialectical behaviour therapy developed for borderline personality disorder, acceptance and commitment therapy for mental health problems, and spiritual self-schema therapy for substance use problems. This approach has also been allied with cognitive-behavioural elements, notably in mindfulness-based relapse prevention programmes developed for substance use patients – a version of which was tested in the featured study.
The 286 patients in the study had completed initial 28-day inpatient or 90-day intensive outpatient treatment at one of the two clinics of a US service. Typically they were unemployed men in their thirties and forties who used several drugs with or without alcohol; for just 14% were their substance use problems confined to alcohol.
These findings suggest that the three aftercare options may have been equally effective in the three months after the two relapse prevention programmes ended. After that, these programmes gained greater benefits compared to usual treatment alone, blunting the probability and severity of relapses at the six-month follow-up. By a year after they had ended, the approach incorporating mindfulness elements emerged as preferable to one based solely on cognitive-behavioural elements. Longer-term benefits may be explained by the therapy’s ability to help patients recognise and tolerate discomfort associated with craving or negative emotions and moods. Continued practice in mindfulness over time can strengthen the ability to monitor and address factors contributing to well-being, bolstering long-term outcomes.
Go to the link below to read the full summary:
In my personal experience, and that is all it is, I believe that CBT and mindfulness are a good way to manage long term recovery and minimise the danger of relapse. I will continue to share what I learn about mindfulness and as I learn more myself over the coming months at Cambridge. If you’ve been using mindfulness has it been helping you?