Mindfulness is overused. “Mindfulness is too vague”. Too “self-helpy”. Too common. The term has lost its mystique. Its sexiness.
Mindfulness is only a word I use to get someone hooked into what we do. It’s not really a useful word in therapy anymore. In fact, the word is so overused in our world that when you use it, too many people have read too much and heard too much to have a clear understanding of exactly how powerful and meaningful mindfulness can be. So, I had to stop using the word.
So, why should you know about mindfulness for our therapy work together?
If you are a consumer of psychotherapy or you are considering hiring a new therapist, start with the basics. You need to know a little bit about the person you’re going to be sitting in the room with. Research shows that the most important indicator of successful therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist.
However, I believe we need more information. I think it’s helpful to know a little bit about the therapist and their views of how psychotherapy works. With something like mindfulness, training is important to make sure you’re a good fit too.
My Mindfulness-Based Therapy Training
After earning my Master’s degree from New York University in 2003, I studied at the Nalanda Institute in New York City. This two-year postgraduate program is in contemplative psychotherapy. Contemplative psychotherapy is a subset or style of psychotherapy. One that utilizes the crossover between Buddhist psychology, mindfulness and meditation practices, and traditional psychotherapy practices. As a lifelong meditator, I was very interested in using my personal experience and my love of meditation in my practice. Using this framework with my clients is important. So, contemplative psychotherapy seemed like a great fit for me. Part of the training included guest lectures on different styles of traditional psychotherapy. These therapists exposed us to different kinds of psychotherapy techniques. Including some that use Buddhist psychology, mindfulness, and meditation practices.
ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
One of the kinds of therapy presented to me was acceptance and commitment therapy. I’ve now had extensive training in ACT (pronounced as “act”, not A.C.T.). Since then, I’ve found ACT to be a very useful tool to turn towards the values that are important to me in life. And, truly, to increase my happiness. Which also sounds like a pretty good idea of what psychotherapy ought to be able to deliver. A chance to find your life to be meaningful and a chance to increase your level of happiness.
ACT can be a tool for enhancing mindfulness skills in therapy
ACT is considered a wave or extension of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But, with some differences. Most notably, ACT does not consider thoughts and beliefs as correct or incorrect. And, symptom reduction is not the goal of treatment but is a by-product of the process. Yes, I use CBT from time to time my practice, too. In CBT, there is a practice of looking at your thoughts and deciding whether the thought is true or not. Based on that, you decide what to do or how to act. In ACT, we don’t take care so much if a thought is true but instead to how the thought is impacting us. How are we behaving as a result of this thought is mindfulness at work. Being mindful of what the thought is, being mindful of how we are responding, and being mindful of the resulting behavior.
So, you can see that mindfulness is not just a catch-all for something that can help improve your life! But, it is the specific tool used in specific work as directed and guided by the therapist, and helps guide you towards the life you want.
Mindfulness Meditation as a Tool for Therapy in New Jersey
Meditation has gotten a bad reputation. Many people who read about mindfulness believe that to get any of the benefits from mindfulness, you have to meditate every day. In some ways yes. Sure. But, also, not really. Mindfulness is a tool that can absolutely be used effectively in many different ways. That does not have to include learning meditation. You don’t have to learn how to meditate to be able to use the tool of mindfulness. But, meditation is a great tool to use to enhance mindfulness. To strengthen the muscle required to be able to use mindfulness in a meaningful way.
“But, I can’t meditate! My mind won’t stop.”
I often have clients coming in saying “I can’t meditate. My mind never stops.” This is a common misconception about meditation. That meditation means stopping your mind. And, if you don’t stop your mind, you are “meditating wrong”. In my personal experience, one of the ways meditation is helpful is that it can help cultivate mindfulness. And, knowing that your mind is thinking and recognizing what your mind is thinking is mindfulness! The fact that your mind is thinking is your mind doing exactly what your mind is intended to do. You have another part of you capable of witnessing the thinking and responding to it is a byproduct of mindfulness. How could anybody have the ability to do this before learning about, practicing, or experiencing mindfulness practice?
You are in good hands. I can help you work on mindfulness skills in therapy.
I’ve been an active meditator for over 25 years and an ACT practitioner for over 10 years. Rest assured if you come to me as a client at some point we will be working with mindfulness practices of a wide variety. If you’re already a meditator, we can work together to enhance your practice. If you’re not a meditator yet and you’re curious, we can get started as soon as you want. It’s really up to you, and what we decide as a team would be the best way to go. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started.