At Promises Treatment Centers, our mindfulness-based relapse prevention groups blend the benefits of mindfulness meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy tools to help clients depower thoughts, external and internal triggers, and behaviors that can lead to relapse. This mindfulness-based addiction recovery technique helps clients take action with practical tools before they pick up a drink, use drugs or engage in other destructive behaviors.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The practice of combining mindfulness practices with cognitive behavioral therapy is often termed MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy). Studies have shown that practicing MBCT can help ease symptoms in people with mental health issues such as major depressive disorder. Initial studies have also shown mindfulness-based relapse prevention practices to be effective for those in recovery from substance use disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness can help people with addictions refrain from drinking or using drugs by steadying them in the present moment, decreasing ruminating thoughts and providing them with methods to decrease impulsive behaviors.

Mindfulness relapse prevention tools are useful because with regular practice they can:

  • Prevent clients from being triggered by ruminations and negative thoughts
  • Provide alternative ways of coping with troubling thoughts and situations
  • Use grounding techniques to disengage from troubling thoughts and temptations
  • Encourage the acceptance of difficult emotions and thoughts without pushing them away
  • Interrupt automatic cognitive processes that contribute to substance abuse, anxiety and depression
  • Increase a person’s threshold for managing difficult circumstances
  • Improve concentration, compassion and acceptance

Mindfulness-based addiction recovery groups are just one of many ways we prepare clients with real-world recovery skills they can use in life after treatment. Clients also gain practical recovery skills through engaging in fitness, proper nutrition, meditation, support groups such as the 12 Steps or alternatives to the 12 Steps, and outings into the community to practice dealing with triggers.

We help clients stay present and focused with groups that explore several mindfulness techniques. Clients learn mindfulness practices they can continue using after drug and alcohol rehab to strengthen their recovery from mental health issues and substance abuse.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of gently pulling oneself back into the present moment, rather than ruminating on the past or future. The goal of mindfulness is not to “get rid” of difficult thoughts and feelings, but to simply notice them without judgement and then bring attention back to the mindfulness activity. There are many ways to weave mindfulness into everyday life by paying close attention to the senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Some examples of mindfulness exercises include:

  • Mentally scanning the body to release tension
  • Focusing on breathing
  • Being mindful of all the different components of an everyday task (e.g., when washing dishes, noticing the shape and feel of the dishes and the feel and smell of soapy water)
  • Concentrating on sensations in the feet while walking
  • Practicing mindful eating by slowing down and focusing on the tastes, textures and smells of food
  • Honing in on the sights, smells and sounds of nature while breathing slowly and intentionally
  • Focusing on an object such as a flower, tree or rock as if seeing it for the first time and noticing all its qualities
  • Listening to music and detecting all the different instruments, rhythms and song components

Benefits of Mindfulness

Research shows that mindfulness practices have a number of benefits that can be especially useful in mental health and addiction recovery. Some of these include:

Relapse prevention – An analysis of several studies on mindfulness and substance abuse concluded that mindfulness may decrease the frequency and severity of drug and alcohol abuse as well as lessen cravings.

Aiding alcohol abuse recovery – A study that followed people who practiced mindfulness as part of alcohol rehab and at home showed decreases in alcohol abuse and cravings that stopped once participants discontinued mindfulness.

Reducing stimulant addiction – A study found that mindfulness helped depressed people addicted to cocaine and other stimulants manage and be more accepting of uncomfortable feelings. Around 87% of participants were still not using stimulants after 12 weeks of mindfulness interventions.

Easing depression symptoms without antidepressants – A UK study found that participants with major depression that underwent mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy for at least two hours a week and engaged in daily mindfulness practices at home had similar depression relapse rates as participants who took antidepressants and didn’t participate in mindfulness (44% and 47% respectively).

Increased resilience to sadness – A study that reviewed brain scans of participants found that people who took part in mindfulness training for eight weeks were less likely to show neural activity that often accompanies depression, anxiety or agitation when they experienced sadness.

Better emotional and behavioral regulation – A large review of research on mindfulness concluded people that practice mindfulness have greater feelings of overall well-being and feel better able to manage difficult emotions and situations by controlling how they react to them.

Improved physical health – A study of 441 college women found that mindfulness practice was tied to healthy self-care like proper nutrition, better sleeping habits and overall physical health.

Better ability to handle PTSD symptoms – Research has shown that mindfulness can help people recover from PTSD and trauma. For instance, a 2017 study found that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques were associated with improved fear and stress responses to traumatic memories.

Mindfulness is just one of the tools we teach clients to draw on when they’re faced with triggers, stress or difficult emotions. Call us at 1.713.528.3709 to learn more about our treatment approaches and how we can help you create a fulfilling life in recovery.