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Components of Mindfulness Interventions

Excerpt from Science Update: Inform Your Mindfulness Teaching and Practice with Current Research, presented by Cedar Koons, MSW, LISW.

In this excerpt, Cedar Koons, MSW, LISW discusses how to apply current research on mindfulness as a mental health intervention to the approach you take with your clients.

"There is some evidence that suggests that 25 minutes is sort of the sweet spot for duration of practice. The research has not yet picked up that long blocks of practice are particularly different in terms of the outcome. The focus is really on observe and describe. So think about many of the exercises we do in DBT, such as being a guard at the palace gate, the conveyor belt (noticing things), mindfulness of current emotion, mindfulness of current thought. These are sensory-focused, present-moment observing, and that appears to be part of the important definition [of "mindfulness"].

"For example, someone might call what they are doing mindfulness if they are knitting. And you can knit mindfully, but the focus of practice is really not on counting stitches, it's about being present in the moment to all that is going on.

"Daily, brief mindfulness practice on a regular basis appears to work better than infrequent or erratic practice (for example, going to a retreat once a year and not practicing the rest of the time). We do not know, we have done the dismantling, about the effect of visualization, yoga, and body scan are – a lot of these have been added into DBT in the new skills manual. We are going to be introducing and using them more with our clients. But we do know that mindfulness itself does have evidence.

"Examples of visualization that we have in DBT are the stone in the lake, the mountain meditation, and going down the staircase. And we also use the body scan, which comes from the vipassana and it's a very important part of mindfulness-based stress reduction.

"You know, psychoeducation in mindfulness interventions does seem to play some role, and it makes me think of the debriefing that we do at the end of our mindfulness exercises in skills group. Somehow, being able to talk about and understand what it is that's going on seems to be relevant.

"Knowing the research behind mindfulness practice is applicable to our clients is because we can increase the specificity in what it is that we are teaching.

"Make sure there is always time to practice each skill taught in class. Drill down into the specifics of what you want them to learn. For example, participating means acting in awareness. It doesn't necessarily mean being able to throw sounds. We can get so caught up in fun mindfulness practices that we forget that mindfulness exercises aren't really an ice breaker, they are practicing a crucial skill. It's very important to our clients. So make sure that your clients are understanding exactly what it is you're wanting them to do, and the reasons for it. What does the research say about mindfulness?"

If you are curious to learn more about this topic, you can purchase Dr. Koon's full webinar about current research on Mindfulness through the Behavioral Tech Vimeo channel.