Mindfulness-Based Treatment for Addiction

Mindfulness, especially specific tools like MBAT, is an increasingly common addiction treatment, popularized through Mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. For individuals struggling with an addiction, mindfulness can present a powerful tool for recovery. At the same time, mindfulness is a relatively new therapy in addiction treatment. If you or a loved one is struggling, it’s important that you understand what mindfulness is, how it works, and when you should be using it before taking mindfulness-based addiction treatment.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present. Here, practitioners are asked to actively live in the present rather than being lost in thought, paying attention to the moment and not to stress, worries, or other forms of active thought. Because most people spend a significant portion of time worrying and thinking rather than paying attention to or enjoying what we are doing, this practice is extremely helpful for many. The practice was first brought to the public notice in the United States by John Kabat-Zinn during the 1970s.

Today, mindfulness has been adapted to numerous medical treatments, including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Mindfulness-Based Addiction Treatment (MBAT), all of which are used in recovery centers around the United States.

Mindfulness-Based Addiction Treatments

There are numerous mindfulness-based treatments and many of them are used in addiction treatment centers. While most follow the same principles, combining mindfulness meditation and training with existing therapies, each has a different primary purpose and is used in different applications. In most cases, an addiction treatment center will only offer one type of mindfulness-based addiction treatment, although this is changing as mindfulness is proven to be more efficacious and becomes more prevalent.

Mindfulness-Based Addiction Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Addiction Therapy or MBAT is an increasingly popular therapy used by addiction centers, typically alongside therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy. MBAT uses mindfulness training, counseling, and long-term follow-up to encourage a healthy lifestyle centered around relaxing and enjoying life. While limited clinical trials exist, most show that mindfulness-based addiction therapy is not ideal as a solution for treating addiction on its own. However, for long-term, its more effective in treating relapse and preventing relapse than cognitive behavioral therapy. Therefore, it’s recommended for use alongside CBT and other behavioral therapies as a complementary rather than standalone treatment.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention or MBRP is a relapse-prevention tool used by a large number of addiction treatment facilities. Like MBAT, MBRP focuses on helping individuals to live in the moment, to reduce stress, and to handle cravings and their addiction through counseling. Unlike MBAT, MBRP is solely focused on preventing relapse rather than in ceasing an addiction and is only suitable as a complementary or follow-up therapy. In most cases, MBRP programs last for 8 weeks, including homework, behavioral counseling, and acceptance to help individuals manage cravings, stress, and triggers. MBRP is considered more effective than CBT or Treatment as Usual (TUA) programs for preventing relapse.

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Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the “gold standard” in modern medical treatment of addiction, because it tackles root causes of behavioral addiction. MBCT combines CBT with mindfulness to treat behavioral problems, while helping the individual to manage stress, build coping mechanisms, and handle triggers. MBCT was originally developed for patients with mental disorders such as anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. However, it’s increasingly being adopted by addiction treatment centers to treat individuals with co-morbid or dual-diagnosis disorders. In one study, patients with a dual diagnosis of depression and addiction saw a 34% increase in reduced risk of relapse over Treatment as Usual.

Complementary Therapies

Addiction treatment centers often integrate mindfulness practices into addiction treatment to help individuals manage stress, cravings, and mood problems. Here, formal programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) are the most common, where individuals take an 8+ week course in stress reduction. Others integrate mindfulness practices of meditation and living in the present to help individuals manage stress and cravings. Other practices such as yoga typically also integrate many of the principles of mindfulness and are very often integrated into addiction treatment.

Does Mindfulness Work to Treat Addiction?

Most studies show that simply following a mindfulness course will not be very effective in helping you to quit a substance dependence. However, mindfulness practices can greatly aid in the process of recovery, especially for individuals who are seeking out other forms of therapy such as CBT. Mindfulness is proven to be effective in treating stress, attention bias, and therefore helping with cravings and triggers. However, it is not and should not be used to treat addiction on its own.

Treating Stress with Mindfulness – MBSR and similar therapies help individuals to destress and reduce anxiety. Focusing on the present moment or what the person is doing rather than remaining lost in thought or caught up in emotions gives many people freedom to simply relax and enjoy life. This is important because stress is linked to addiction, to relapse, and to cravings. Many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, leading them to want to use in any period of stress. Reducing total stress improved your tolerance for it, reduces the need to self-medicate, and reduces cravings. While stress reduction isn’t a cure-all, it does help and it does positively impact relapse.

Attention-Bias – Mindfulness is useful in treating the phenomenon of attention bias, where individuals focus on the substance they are addicted to, to the exclusion of all else. Mindfulness helps individuals focus on what they are doing and the present moment, relieving cravings because that individual can shift their attention elsewhere. This is helpful in preventing relapse.

Mindfulness is based on meditation, living in the present, and personal discipline. This makes it extremely useful as a tool for recovering addicts, who very often need discipline, stress reduction, and the ability to focus their attention. Therefore, mindfulness-based treatments have proven useful in helping addicts to recover. At the same time, most studies don’t show that mindfulness-based treatments help individuals to recover on their own. Instead, they help as complementary therapies, as follow-up therapies, and as effective relapse prevention techniques. Furthermore, mindfulness is only effective as long as individuals continue to practice. You don’t have to continue going to classes but practicing the act of mindfulness is important for it to continue to work.

What’s the verdict? While you shouldn’t take mindfulness classes in an attempt to get clean, mindfulness can be extremely useful when and after recovering from an addiction. Therefore, it may be extremely helpful in reducing the risk of relapse and seeking out an addiction treatment center that offers mindfulness-based therapy is a good decision for anyone looking for a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

Contact South Coast Counselling at 1-844-330-0096 and find the help you need or help someone who is addicted in finding the help they need.

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