As part of a mindfulness training certification program I recently took, I did a short paper to review the course and my experience doing 21 days of meditations.
I thoroughly loved this Mindfulness certification program. I have been obsessed with mindfulness for quite some time. It was very important in my recovery. It’s very important to me as a counselor and coach. I enjoyed the opportunity to do the 21-day mindfulness exercise. I’ve been trying to practice daily mindfulness for many years, since I started active recovery. I was first introduced to mindfulness by a therapist about 15 years ago, and it’s been important to me since then, but I got more intense with my practice of it more recently.
For the 21-day exercise, I alternated between a 10-minute walking meditation, guided by the Daily Calm app, and a five-minute insight (Vipassana) meditation, focusing on my breath and noting any feelings and emotions that surfaced. Once a week, I incorporated an ideal parent mentalization with the Vipassana meditation, a therapeutic protocol that uses the power of imagination to create a sense of secure attachment, created by Dan Brown. He combined Tibetan Buddhism with attachment theory to come up with Ideal Parent Figure Protocol. I also include a daily “parts check-in” something I learned from IFS work (Internal Family Systems). It’s very compatible with mindfulness, imagining each of our prominent/recurring thoughts or behavior patterns as distinct parts of our personality that we can dialogue with as if a real person.
I loved the broad spectrum of topics related to mindfulness the class covered, including its application in the treatment of depression and anxiety, teaching mindfulness, and its use in both group and individual therapy.
My favorite section of the course was the one on addiction. I’d read Judson Brewer before, but this was a good review of his work. It introduced the RAIN exercise (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Note), a powerful tool for managing cravings. I prefer Tara Brach’s N for Nurture, though. The analogy of addiction being compared to a child throwing a temper tantrum was particularly resonant and one I use with clients a lot. I love this quote from Judson Brewer:
“Mindfulness training teaches that instead of running away from unpleasantness by engaging in an addictive behavior, one can learn to accept what is happening right now and, paradoxically, move into it to explore what the craving actually feels like in their bodies, no matter how unpleasant it might be at the moment. Through this approach, individuals learn that cravings are inherently impermanent and that their heads don’t actually explode if they don’t act on them.”
This perfectly encapsulates the transformative power of mindfulness in addiction recovery.
My personal history with addiction recovery has given me a unique perspective on the intersection of mindfulness and addiction. I have grappled with cravings and periods of acting out with various substances and behaviors, all of which led me down a path of self-destruction. However, through mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I’ve learned to recognize these cravings and address them in a healthier way. This journey has taught me to acknowledge my thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them, enhancing my self-awareness, emotional intelligence, resilience, and overall well-being.
In my practice as a therapist, I emphasize the importance of mindfulness in addressing cravings, desires, and addictions. A daily meditation practice, focusing on the breath and observing thoughts without judgment, can strengthen mental resilience and better manage cravings. Techniques like cognitive defusion and urge surfing have been effective in managing my addictive behaviors and can be equally beneficial for my clients.
Cognitive defusion helps one detach from negative thoughts, reducing their impact and influence. Urge surfing, on the other hand, teaches one to ride the wave of urges without succumbing to them. Both these techniques, along with the RAIN exercise, have been instrumental in my recovery journey and are some of my “go-to’s” with clients so far in practicum.
My experience with mindfulness has also underscored the importance of self-compassion and self-care in the recovery process. Nurturing ourselves, showing compassion for our struggles, and rewarding our small victories are all integral parts of the healing process. Metta is a powerful mindfulness exercise to help build compassion for self and others. I use it in addiction recovery a lot. Self-compassion is vital in addiction recovery. But also compassion for others, especially one’s relationship partner, is vital in sex addiction recovery, which has a lot of crossover with narcissism. I believe Metta mindfulness can be an antidote for narcissism, and I believe this is a fruitful area for future research.
In conclusion, my recent experience with the 21 day daily mindfulness practice and my studies in the course have deepened my understanding of the transformative power of mindfulness. Whether it’s managing cravings in addiction recovery, reducing stress and anxiety, or simply enhancing self-awareness and emotional intelligence, mindfulness has a wide range of applications in therapy. As I continue my journey as a coach and therapist, I am excited to incorporate these mindfulness techniques into my practice, helping others to navigate their own paths towards healing and recovery.
Rob Terry is a therapist for clients in Utah and coach for clients outside of Utah and across the globe. He specializes in sex addiction recovery for individuals and couples. He integrates the CSAT, OCSB, and Minwalla models for individual recovery and Gottman Method, RLT, and ERCEM for couples recovery. He is betrayal trauma informed. His therapy modalities are IFS, ACT, CBT, EMDR, and Attachment Theory.