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Mindfulness is nothing new, Buddha sat under a fig tree to salve his tormented soul, Jesus left the crowds went up to the mountain to sit. There are numerous examples of historical figures using Mindful techniques to calm themselves and settle the mind. Mindfulness is nothing more than being able to focus on the present moment and attend to that moment with curiosity, acceptance and without judgement.

Such techniques as Meditation, a breathing-based practice for muscle relaxation, listening to music, gratitude journals to daily stretching routines, where once seen as fringe or unprofessional methods.

Mindfulness techniques are enjoying new popularity, which can be attributed to the West’s interests in Eastern meditation which started to form in the 1960’s/70’s and to the Third Wave Psychology therapies which emerged about 20 years ago. Third wave therapies are where the emphasis shifted from a purely syndromal focus to an understanding that human psychological prosperity and the thriving of whole persons, not merely psychopathology, became more central. Behavioural and mental health is ultimately about health, not solely the absence of disorders.

The arrival of a “third wave” of CBT was declared 16 years ago. The claim was that a change was occurring in orienting assumptions within CBT and that a set of new behavioural and cognitive approaches were emerging based on contextual concepts focused more on the persons’ relationship to thought and emotion than on their content. Third-wave methods emphasized such issues as mindfulness, emotions, acceptance, the relationship, values and goals.

This led to modern CBT and evidence‐based therapy became more open to the investigation of a wider range of approaches from humanistic, existential, analytic, and spiritual traditions. This promises over time to reduce the dominance within intervention science of walled-off schools of thought, or trademarked intervention protocols.

A subtle but important change is that there is now greater recognition of the central importance of philosophical assumptions to methods of intervention and their analysis. Science requires pre‐analytic assumptions about the nature of data, truth, and the questions of importance, and some of the differences between the waves and generations of CBT work were philosophical, not empirical.

The acceptance that mindfulness techniques can be used in therapy to help the consumer to quieten their mind to allow them to understand their thoughts, or as to why they are feeling a certain way or to help develop an attitude of kindness and acceptance towards the self and others has opened the application to other areas. The empirical evidence gained from the successful application in therapies has opened the acceptance that these practices can be used to prolong mental health and prevent mental health issues occurring.

We do need more studies on the preventative benefits of mindfulness techniques, but emerging studies are indicating general health benefits as well as significant mental health benefits in reducing stress, improving concentration, memory and focus, reducing emotional difficulties, alleviating pain and depression, assisting with sleep problems and improving relationships.

With the acceptance of viewing health as a whole, not just individual issues has seen the inclusion of Mindfulness in many areas of professional services including mental health. This approach empowers the clinician to provide effective treatment and to provide tools for the consumer to take home with them. No longer are mindfulness techniques included with burning incense, wearing gowns or contorting your bodies, however, if it works for individuals don’t stop them.

Frank Jacobsen

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Frank Jacobsen

Frank is a counsellor for Lifeskills Australia, the Director of Regional Counselling Services and the W.A. Health Department’s Mental Health Advocate for the Goldfields region

Acknowledgement to the following resource in producing this blog:

  1. The third wave of cognitive behavioural therapy and the rise of process‐based care
    Steven C. Hayes 1 and Stefan G. Hofmann 2 World Psychiatry. 2017 Oct; 16(3): 245–246.
    Published online 2017 Sep 21. DOI: 10.1002/wps.20442
  2. The Third Wave of CBT
    By Beppe Micallef-Trigona, MD, MSc
  3. Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioural and cognitive therapies. Behaviour Therapy, 35, 638-665.
  4. Hayes S. C., Masuda, A., Bissett, R., Luoma, J., & Gueffero, L. F. (2004). DBT, FAP, and ACT: How empirically oriented are the new behaviour therapy technologies? Behaviour Therapy, 35, 33-54.
  5. Hofmann, S. G., & Asmundson, G. J. (2008). Acceptance and mindfulness-based therapy: New wave or old hat? Clinical Psychology Review, 28(1), 2-16.
  6. Mindfulness; 150 little ways to make a big change. Herron Books

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