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Mindfulness in psychotherapy: an introduction

  • Chris Mace


‘Mindfulness' has become a popular topic among psychological therapists. This introductory article explains what mindfulness is and how it can be developed, before exploring how it has been incorporated within psychoanalytic and cognitive–behavioural psychotherapies. These reflect general as well as specific presumed therapeutic actions. At present, variations in the way mindfulness is understood, taught and applied mean that it is too early to fully assess its potential. They demonstrate how the use of attention and awareness in therapy cuts across traditional divisions and where mindfulness in therapy is most in need of further investigation.

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  • Chris Mace


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Mindfulness in psychotherapy: an introduction

  • Chris Mace
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Mindfulness in Psychiatry

Muthu KR Natarajan, Staff grade Psychiatrist
18 April 2007

Words are devised by symbolic levels of the mind. It is difficult to provide a consistent, comprehensive operational definition for Mindfulnessusing words because Mindfulness is an experience and is a pre-symbolic concept. Still, the article "Mindfulness in Psychotherapy" is a successful attempt at trying to explain this subtle process.

According to Buddhist psychology, Mindfulness (Sati) is one of the five Indriyas (mastery of one's own task), the other four being Faith (Saddha), Energy(Viriya), Concentration(Samadhi) and Understanding or Wisdom (Panna). Creating an equilibrium in the mind depends on harmonizingand balancing these five controlling faculties. The techniques of mindfulness meditation represent a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy for transforming the ways in which werespond to life events (Astin, 1997).

Psychiatry is surrounded by uncertainties and working as a psychiatrist can be seen as a life event that is filled with rapidly changing circumstances. Mindfulness increases our ability to work effectively under stress by enabling impartial watchfulness and non-conceptual awareness. It creates understanding below the level of concepts and opinions andhence leads to deep observation with an absence of confusion.It increases our resilience to cope with setbacks by building a mind which is able to see things as they are without bias, condemnation or judgement.

The simple act of recognizing thoughts as thoughts can free one from the distorted reality they often create and allow for more clear-sightedness and a greater sense of manageability in your life (Persaud, 2006). Although one can experience brief spells of mindfulness to start with, learning to integrate it into your conscious life and prolonging the state of mindfulness are skills that provide long-lasting benefits. Mindfulness is the binding thread of the Indriyas (the other four being Faith,Energy, Concentration and Wisdom). It is like an electric supply or a battery that needs to be charged constantly.


Raj Persaud

Mindfulness and Acceptance: Expanding the Cognitive- Behavioral TraditionBr. J. Psychiatry, Jan 2006; 188: 94.

Astin, J. A. (1997) Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 66, 97-106.[Medline]
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