Supercharging CBT with Mindfulness, notes from a CBT therapist
Over the last few year Mindfulness has become very on trend, it’s often called a third wave therapy, which basically means it’s an emerging therapy with a fantastic evidence base grounded in research just like Cognitive behavioural therapy.
Any CBT therapist keeping up to date will have had extensive training and practice in Mindfulness. I started my Mindfulness training with Professor Mark Williams at Oxford University in 2010, he’s the guy who trained Ruby Wax who is a huge advocate for Mindfulness and has written some great books. Mark Williams is one of the founders of Mindfulness and has written a book which is a must have for anyone beginning to think about starting Mindfulness his website is http://franticworld.com/.
So how does Mindfulness fit with CBT?
In my clinical practice I probably recommend to 95% of people that they begin some type of home practice of Mindfulness, probably 90% of people initially roll their eyes at the prospect of meditating, however once I’ve gone over the reasons why, the evidence base and the science everybody is willing to give it a go. You just can’t ignore the benefits for your mental and physical health. Google ‘the benefits of Mindfulness’ and you will see.
So why as a CBT therapist am I getting people to engage in another therapy? Well where do I begin! When you embark on the journey of therapy you enter a time of reflection, introspection, self-awareness, growth and development.
However, what has often bought people to therapy is a crisis of some sort or a period of significant distress and the two just don’t go together.
For CBT or any other therapy for that matter where a person is looking to reflect, grow, develop and make changes to their life if there are experiencing inner turmoil that has to be the priority before any change can occur. So helping people settle that down is the priority and Mindfulness aids this process helping you get to the change and development stage sooner.
Mindfulness helps calm and slow down your body and in turn your mind, it makes you more aware of your thinking patterns and creates the space and environment for therapy to be It’s most effective.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is about becoming more aware of the patterns of our thoughts and behaviour Mindfulness enables us to have more clarity over our thoughts and behaviours by grounding us into the here and now.
Often are minds are so caught up with what we need to do, or what we should have done that we are not in the moment we are never just being. This constant buzz in our minds is exhausting and we can lose the ability to relax and enjoy things as they happen impacting our moods and energy levels.
Having a calmer mind improves our concentration, productivity and memory. These benefits of mindfulness improve our learning and the ability to be more curious about information, which ensures you are mentally in a good place to get the most out of your sessions. This is also why Mindfulness is being taught in schools.
Mindfulness moves us from the doing mode to the being mode so we are no longer operating in automatic pilot, this increased awareness means we have more control and choice over our thoughts, behaviours and how our life plays out. A key role of the CBT therapist is to help you increase awareness so you can make the changes you need too so Mindfulness supports this process in-between sessions.
Mindfulness is process of self-care, you have to prioritise yourself and your time and be more nurturing and supportive. This is often an area that has been most neglected in peoples lives before they embark on therapy. The therapy session is for an hour a week and if in-between sessions therapy is out of your mind your just not going to gain the same benefits and you would do if you invest in yourself outside of the sessions too.
When people come to CBT they are experiencing some kind of difficulty that they want fixed or they want to stop having any anxiety or depression. These attempts of fighting symptoms and pushing difficult experiences away can make you less tolerant of difficulty and add another layer to your suffering.
CBT is often about building tolerance to anxiety, uncertainty or difficult thoughts and letting go of this fight results in a release of suffering. Mindfulness is a technique that guides you to just notice without judgement. This is a skill for the busy mind that is used to attending to every thought it has. There is a practice in Mindfulness where you allow your thoughts to just be in your mind without doing any thing with them people often say that learning that their Thoughts are just thoughts is really valuable.
The allowing of difficult experiences without trying to change it is an important tool that can really support CBT, and help you begin to cultivate who you want to be.
So what’s holding you back maybe it’s time to give it a go, below are some really useful tools I often recommend to people as they start on their Mindfulness path. It isn’t for everyone and there’s other tools we can recommend but it’s worth a try.
Top tip – The harder people find Mindfulness the more then end up benefiting from it so don’t give up after the first go.
Here are some of the best Mindfulness resources I have used and recommend to my clients – many offer free meditations.
1. The perfect introduction to mindfulness.
Watch Melli O’Brien enlightening interview with Professor Mark Williams on mindfulness.
2. Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World
3. Headspace – Meditation made simple
Live a happier, healthier life with just 10 minutes of meditation a day on the Headspace app.
4. Calm – Meditation Techniques for Sleep and Stress Reduction
App for Mindfulness and Meditation #1 for Mindfulness and Meditation. Calm brings clarity, joy and peace to your daily life.