Mindfulness for Therapists
Gerhard Zarbock is a clinical psychologist, certified CBT-, Schema- and DBT-therapist, a supervisor and trainer for CBT and schema therapy, and training director of a government approved CBT training institution (IVAH) in Hamburg, Germany. Siobhan Lynch is a psychologist and researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. She runs modules in psychiatry research for medical students and mindfulness classes for the public. Axel Ammann is a clinical psychologist and certified cognitive behavioural therapist. He works for IVAH in Hamburg, Germany and also has a private practice, focusing on mindfulness-based psychotherapy. Silka Ringer is a clinical psychologist and a certified CBT-therapist for individual and group therapy based in Luebeck, Germany.
Mindfulness for Therapists
Before we begin you might like to pause for a moment and consider what 'mindfulness' means to you. What thoughts or images pop up? Perhaps you already know about mindfulness and have your own personal practice? Or maybe this is all quite new for you?
There is no single 'right' answer or absolute definition of mindfulness, not least because the term is used in many different ways in the literature (Hayes & Wilson, 2003). However, perhaps the most useful starting point is the ever-popular definition given by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) with colleagues back in the late 1970s. Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as: "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally" (1994, p. 4).
While the modern Western psychological understanding of mindfulness does not simply adopt Buddhist notions, and although mindfulness is generally considered to be a natural human quality which can be cultivated with regular practice, it is important to acknowledge that secular mindfulness-based approaches have a strong grounding in Buddhist meditation. Within a Buddhist context, mindfulness has been described as:
characterized by dispassionate, non-evaluative, and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of perceptible mental states and processes. This denotes continuous, immediate awareness of physical sensations, perceptions, affective states, thoughts and imagery"
(Grossman, 2010, p. 88).
While these definitions emphasise that mindfulness encompasses more than 'just' attention, it is clear that attention plays a central role (Chiesa & Malinowski, 2011). How do these definitions fit in with your initial reflections?
We will touch on the scientific literature surrounding the nature of mindfulness and the established benefits of mindfulness training in Chapter 2 , for those of you who are not overly familiar with the field. However, the purpose of this book isn't to tell you what mindfulness is, but rather to serve as an invitation to explore it for yourself. The material is aimed at those who provide some form of psychological therapy or support, but may be equally useful for those in a variety of helping professions, such as social workers, mental health project workers or medical practitioners. Equally, the material may also be useful for those who work in other capacities, such as educators.
Being a therapist is mentally and emotionally draining, regardless of whether you are 'freshly minted' or an 'old hand'. Research suggests that mindfulness training is beneficial for those in the helping professions and may serve as a useful self-care practice (Irving, Dobkin, & Park, 2009). There is some evidence that suggests that therapists who have trained in mindfulness may actually have better client outcomes, although the "jury is still out on this question" (Labbé, 2011, p. 30). The mindfulness for therapists programme presented in Chapter 3 includes a series of meditations and exercises to help you discover new ways of bringing your practice into your therapy room. Regular mindfulness practice supports the development of a decentred perspective, allowing you to step back and observe your attitudes, feelings and approaches to yourself and your client. Regular practice is absolutely essential and lies at the heart of all modern mindfulness training (Malinowski, 2008). Of course this is common sense - if you wanted to learn to play the piano you wouldn't expect to be able to play after only a couple of lessons! This fits in with the research, where there appears to be a relationship between the time individuals spent practising formal meditation and the levels of change observed in measures of mindfulness and well-being (Carmody & Baer, 2008). It might be useful to take a moment to reflect on whether you're really prepared to incorporate so