A riches of brand-new research has explored this age-old practice. Here"s a look in ~ its benefits for both clients and also psychologists.

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By Daphne M. Davis, PhD, and Jeffrey A. Hayes, PhD

July/August 2012, Vol 43, No. 7

Print version: page 64

15 min read


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As a result of having participated in this continuing education program, participants will be able to:

Identify the an interpretation of mindfulness and what practices build mindfulness.Identify at least four benefits that the impact of mindfulness meditation top top therapists and therapist trainees.Understand the relationship between therapists" mindfulness and psychotherapy outcome based upon the research to date.

Mindfulness has enjoyed a remarkable surge in popular in the past decade, both in the popular press and also in the psychotherapy literature. The practice has actually moved from a mainly obscure Buddhist concept founded around 2,600 years earlier to a tendency psychotherapy build today.

Advocates that mindfulness would have us think that basically every customer and therapist would advantage from being more mindful. Among its theorized benefits are self-control, objectivity, impact tolerance, amplified flexibility, equanimity, boosted concentration and also mental clarity, emotional intelligence and also the capacity to relate come others and one"s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.

But is mindfulness as good as advertised? This article offers summary of the research on mindfulness and also discusses its ramifications for practice, research and also training.

Empirically supported benefits the mindfulness

The hatchet "mindfulness" has been used to describe a emotional state the awareness, the methods that encourage this awareness, a setting of processing information and a character trait. Come be constant with many of the research study reviewed in this article, we specify mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness that one"s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.

Several disciplines and also practices deserve to cultivate mindfulness, such together yoga, tai chi and also qigong, however most the the literary works has concentrated on mindfulness the is developed through mindfulness meditation — those self-regulation methods that emphasis on maintain attention and awareness in order to lug mental procedures under better voluntary control and also thereby foster basic mental health and advance and/or specific cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcities such as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).

Researchers theorize the mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, reduce rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities and enhances attentional cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcities v gains in working memory. This cognitive gains, in turn, add to reliable emotion-regulation strategies.

More specifically, study on mindfulness has identified these benefits:

Reduced rumination. number of studies have shown that mindfulness to reduce rumination. In one study, for example, Chambers et al. (2008) request 20 novice meditators to take part in a 10-day intensive mindfulness meditation retreat. After the retreat, the meditation group had significantly higher self-reported mindfulness and a decreased an unfavorable affect contrasted with a manage group. They additionally experienced under depressive symptoms and also less rumination. In addition, the meditators had actually significantly better working storage cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcity and were far better able come sustain attention throughout a performance task compared with the regulate group.

Stress reduction. many studies display that practicing mindfulness reduces stress. In 2010, Hoffman et al. Performed a meta-analysis the 39 researches that explored the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The researchers concluded the mindfulness-based therapy might be helpful in changing affective and also cognitive processes that underlie multiple clinical issues.

Those findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness meditation rises positive affect and decreases anxiety and an adverse affect. In one study, participants randomly assigned come an eight-week mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction team were compared with controls on self-reported procedures of depression, anxiety and also psychopathology, and also on neural reactivity together measured by fMRI ~ watching sad films (Farb et al., 2010). The researchers discovered that the entrants who competent mindfulness-based stress reduction had substantially less anxiety, depression and somatic distress compared with the regulate group. In addition, the fMRI data indicated that the mindfulness group had much less neural reactivity when they were exposed come the movies than the control group, and also they displayed distinctly various neural responses while watching the films than they did before their mindfulness training. This findings indicate that mindfulness meditation shifts people"s ability to use emotion regulation strategies in a means that allows them to experience emotion selectively, and that the emotions they experience may be processed in different way in the mind (Farb et al., 2010; Williams, 2010).

Boosts to functioning memory. improvements to functioning memory show up to be an additional benefit the mindfulness, research finds. A 2010 research by Jha et al., because that example, recorded the services of mindfulness meditation among a military group who participated in one eight-week mindfulness training, a nonmeditating armed forces group and a team of nonmeditating civilians. Both military groups were in a extremely stressful period before deployment. The researchers discovered that the nonmeditating military team had decreased working memory cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcity end time, whereas functioning memory cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcity among nonmeditating civilians to be stable across time. Within the meditating armed forces group, however, functioning memory cjonathanlewisforcongress.comcity boosted with meditation practice. In addition, meditation practice was directly related come self-reported positive affect and inversely related to self-reported an unfavorable affect.

Focus. another study examined how mindfulness meditation impacted participants" capability to emphasis attention and also suppress distracting information. The researchers contrasted a group of experienced mindfulness meditators through a control group that had actually no meditation experience. They discovered that the meditation group had significantly much better performance ~ above all measures of attention and also had greater self-reported mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation practice and self-reported mindfulness were associated directly v cognitive flexibility and also attentional work (Moore and also Malinowski, 2009).

Less emotionally reactivity. Research additionally supports the concept that mindfulness meditation decreases emotionally reactivity. In a research of civilization who had anywhere from one month come 29 year of mindfulness meditation practice, researchers discovered that mindfulness meditation exercise helped human being disengage native emotionally upsetting photos and permitted them come focus better on a cognitive task as contrasted with people who saw the pictures however did not meditate (Ortner et al., 2007).

More cognitive flexibility. another line the research argues that in enhancement to help people become less reactive, mindfulness meditation may also give them higher cognitive flexibility. One study uncovered that civilization who exercise mindfulness meditation appear to develop the skill of self-observation, which neurologically disengages the automatically pathways that were developed by prior learning and allows present-moment input come be integrated in a new means (Siegel, 2007a). Meditation likewise activates the mind region connected with much more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003). Activation of this an ar corresponds with much faster recovery come baseline after gift negatively enraged (Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000).

Relationship satisfaction. number of studies discover that a person"s ability to be mindful can assist predict connection satisfaction — the capability to respond well to partnership stress and the ability in connecting one"s emotions to a partner. Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness protects versus the emotionally stressful results of relationship dispute (Barnes et al., 2007), is positively linked with the ability to express oneself in miscellaneous social situations (Dekeyser el al., 2008) and also predicts partnership satisfaction (Barnes et al., 2007; Wachs & Cordova, 2007).

Other benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to improve self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation, every functions associated with the brain"s middle prefrontal lobe area. Evidence also suggests the mindfulness meditation has plenty of health benefits, consisting of increased immune functioning (Davidson et al., 2003; view Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004 because that a testimonial of physical health and wellness benefits), innovation to wellness (Carmody & Baer, 2008) and reduction in mental distress (Coffey & Hartman, 2008; Ostafin et al., 2006). In addition, mindfulness meditation practice appears to increase information processing speed (Moore & Malinowski, 2009), as well as decrease task effort and having think that room unrelated to the task at your disposal (Lutz et al., 2009).

The effects of meditation ~ above therapists and also therapist trainees

While many studies have been performed on the services of applying mindfulness viewpoints to psychotherapy clients (for reviews, view Didonna, 2009 and Baer, 2006), study on the effects of mindfulness on psychotherapists is just start to emerge. Specifically, research study has established these services for psychotherapists who practice mindfulness meditation:

Empathy. Several studies imply that mindfulness promotes empathy. One study, because that example, looked at premedical and medical students who participated in one eight-week mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction training. It discovered that the mindfulness group had significantly greater self-reported empathy than a manage group (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998). In 2006, a qualitative study of therapists who were knowledgeable meditators found that they believed that mindfulness meditation helped build empathy towards clients (Aiken, 2006). Along similar lines, Wang (2007) found that therapists who were knowledgeable mindfulness meditators scored higher on procedures of self-reported empathy than therapists who did no meditate.

Compassion. Mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction maintain has also been discovered to improve self-compassion amongst health-care experts (Shapiro, Astin, Bishop, & Cordova, 2005) and therapist trainees (Shapiro, Brown, & Biegel, 2007). In 2009, Kingsbury investigated the role of self-compassion in relationship to mindfulness. Two components of mindfulness — nonjudging and also nonreacting — to be strongly associated with self-compassion, together were two dimensions of empathy — taking on others" perspectives (i.e., perspective taking) and reacting come others" affective experiences through discomfort. Self-compassion completely mediated the relationship between perspective taking and mindfulness.

Counseling skills. Empirical literary works demonstrates that including mindfulness interventions in psychotherapy training may aid therapists develop skills that make them more effective. In a four-year qualitative study, for example, counseling students who took a 15-week course that had mindfulness meditation reported the mindfulness practice permitted them come be more attentive to the treatment process, an ext comfortable through silence, and more attuned v themselves and clients (Newsome, Christopher, Dahlen, & Christopher, 2006; Schure, Christopher, & Christopher, 2008). Counselors in maintain who have actually participated in comparable mindfulness-based interventions have reported far-ranging increases in self-awareness, insights about their expert identity (Birnbaum, 2008) and overall well-being (Rybak & Russell-Chapin, 1998).

Decreased stress and anxiety. Research uncovered that premedical and also medical student reported less anxiety and also depressive symptoms after participating in one eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction training compared with a waiting list regulate group (Shapiro et al., 1998). The control group evidenced comparable gains ~ exposure come mindfulness-based tension reduction training. Similarly, following such training, therapist trainees have actually reported diminished stress, rumination and an unfavorable affect (Shapiro et al., 2007). In addition, when contrasted with a regulate group, mindfulness-based stress reduction training has actually been presented to decrease full mood disturbance, including stress, anxiety and also fatigue in medical students (Rosenzweig, Reibel, Greeson, Brainard, & Hojat, 2003).

Better top quality of life. utilizing qualitative and also quantitative measures, nursing students reported far better quality the life and also a far-ranging decrease in an unfavorable psychological symptoms complying with exposure come mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction maintain (Bruce, Young, Turner, Vander Wal, & Linden, 2002). Proof from a study of counselor trainees exposed come interpersonal mindfulness training suggests that together interventions have the right to foster emotional intelligence and also social connectedness, and also reduce stress and anxiety (Cohen & Miller, 2009).

Similarly, in a study of Chinese college students, those students who were randomly assigned to take part in a mindfulness meditation intervention had lower depression and anxiety, and also less fatigue, anger and also stress-related cortisol contrasted to a control group (Tang et al., 2007). These same students had higher attention, self-regulation and also immunoreactivity. One more study assessed transforms in symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic anxiety disorder among new Orleans mental health workers complying with an eight-week meditation intervention that began 10 weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Although alters in depression symptom were no found, PTSD and also anxiety symptoms considerably decreased after ~ the treatment (Waelde et al., 2008). The findings suggest that meditation may serve a buffering role for mental health and wellness workers in the wake of a disaster.

Other benefits for therapists. to date, only one study has investigated the relationship between mindfulness and also counseling self-efficacy. Greason and also Cashwell (2009) uncovered that counseling self-efficacy was considerably predicted by self-reported mindfulness amongst masters-level interns and also doctoral counseling students. In the study, attention mediated the relationship between mindfulness and self-efficacy, arguing that mindfulness may contribute to the development of beneficial attentional processes that aid psychotherapists in maintain (Greason & Cashwell, 2009). Other potential services of mindfulness encompass increased patience, intentionality, gratitude and body awareness (Rothaupt & Morgan, 2007).

Outcomes of clients who therapists meditate

While research study points come the conclusion that mindfulness meditation offers many benefits to therapists and also trainees, perform these benefits analyze to psychotherapy treatment outcomes?

So far, just one study argues it does. In a study performed in Germany, randomly assigned counselor trainees who practiced Zen meditation because that nine mainly reported higher self-awareness contrasted with nonmeditating counselor trainees (Grepmair et al., 2007). But much more important, after nine weeks the treatment, client of trainees who meditated shown greater reductions in in its entirety symptoms, much faster rates that change, scored higher on procedures of well-being and also perceived their treatment to be more effective than clients of nonmeditating trainees.

However, the results of three other studies were not as encouraging. Stanley et al. (2006) learned the relationship in between trait mindfulness among 23 doctoral-level clinical psychology trainees in relation to therapy outcomes that 144 adult clients at a neighborhood clinic that provided manualized, empirically sustained treatments. Contrary to expectation, therapist mindfulness was inversely correlated with customer outcome.

This is constant with various other findings that indicate an inverse connection exists in between therapists" mindfulness and client outcomes (Bruce, 2006; Vinca & Hayes, 2007). Other research argues that no connection exists between therapist mindfulness and also therapy result (Stratton, 2006).

What can be behind these results? It can be that "more mindful" civilization are most likely to score lower on self-reports of mindfulness due to the fact that they are more accurately maybe to explain their "mindlessness." Conversely, human being who are less mindful might not realize it and therefore might be skinny to price themselves higher on such measures.

Overall, when the psychological and physical health and wellness benefits of mindfulness meditation space strongly sustained by research, the methods in i beg your pardon therapists" mindfulness meditation practice and also therapists" mindfulness translate to measureable outcomes in psychotherapy stay unclear. Future research is needed to research the relations between therapists" mindfulness, therapists" constant mindfulness meditation practice and also common factors known to add to effective treatment outcomes.

Important next actions in research

Future research holds remarkable potential for learning an ext about the neurophysiological procedures of meditation and also the services of irreversible practice on the brain. Research study on neuroplasticity may help explain the relationships among length and also quality that meditation practice, developmental step of meditators and also psychotherapy outcomes. An ext research is necessary to much better understand exactly how the services of meditation practice accumulate over time.

In addition, psychologists and others require to discover other ways to boost mindfulness in enhancement to meditation. Offered that current research walk not indicate that therapists" self-reported mindfulness enhances client outcomes, far better measures of mindfulness might need to be emerged or various research design that execute not rely on self-report actions need to it is in used. Garland and Gaylord (2009) have proposed that the following generation that mindfulness research include four domains: 1. Performance-based procedures of mindfulness, as opposed to self-reports that mindfulness; 2. Scientific review of notions espoused by buddhism traditions; 3. Neuroimaging modern technology to verify self-report data; and 4. Transforms in gene expression together a an outcome of mindfulness. Study along this lines is likely to enhance our understanding of mindfulness and its potential services to psychotherapy.

Research is additionally needed on effective and practical way of teaching therapists mindfulness practices. Future research could investigate means mindfulness practices and also mindfulness meditation can be combined into trainees" practicum and also clinical supervision. Due to the fact that mindfulness-based anxiety reduction has actually been successfully used through therapist trainees (e.g., Shapiro et al., 2007), the method may be a simple means for therapists to integrate mindfulness practices into trainees" practicum course or group supervision. Future research study questions could include: walk therapists" practice of mindfulness meditation in clinical supervision v their supervisees affect the supervisory alliance or relational skills of supervisees? walk practicing officially mindfulness meditation together a group in practicum or internship aid in group cohesion, self-care, relational skills or measurable common factors that add to successful psychotherapy?

Given the limited research thus much on empathy, compassion, lessened stress and reactivity, much more research is necessary on just how mindfulness meditation practice affects this constructs and measurable counseling skills in both trainees and also therapists. For example, how does mindfulness meditation practice affect empathy and compassion for midcareer or late-career therapists that are experienced at mindfulness?

Shapiro and Carlson (2009) have suggested that mindfulness meditation can also serve psychologists together a method of self-care to protect against burnout. Future study is required on no only exactly how the exercise of mindfulness meditation help facilitate trainee advancement and psychotherapy processes, but likewise how the can help therapists prevent burnout and also other detrimental outcomes of job-related stress.

In addition, despite abundant theoretical occupational on ways to conceptually unify Buddhist and also Western psychology come psychotherapy (e.g., Epstein, 2007, 1995), there is a lack of literary works on what the looks favor in session as soon as a therapist offers mindfulness and Buddhist-oriented philosophies to treat particular clinical issues.

In conclusion, mindfulness has the potential come facilitate trainee and therapists" development, and also affect readjust mechanisms known to add to effective psychotherapy. The ar of psychology could advantage from future research examining cause and also effect relationship in enhancement to mediational models in stimulate to far better understand the services of mindfulness and mindfulness meditation practice.

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Daphne M. Davis, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Trauma facility at Justice resource Institute in Brookline, Mass.

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Jeffrey A. Hayes, PhD, is a professor that counseling psychology at the Pennsylvania State college department of educational psychology, counseling and also special education.