The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mindfulness and Addiction

Mindfulness has its origins in Eastern philosophy, and Dr. Marlatt's approach is based on Buddhist meditation practices. He considers this approach to be nonreligious, as he describes Buddhism more as a philosophy or science than a religion, the teachings of the Buddha being a "manual of how to deal with the behavior of your mind."
Dr. Marlatt's approach focuses on teaching clients breath-focused meditation as a way to manage substance cravings. This meditation technique involves monitoring thoughts, sensations, and emotions without judging them. Because there is no judgment of the addictive craving or impulse, but merely observation of it, this opens up more choice-points than are typically apparent to someone less mindful. This aspect of the practice allows the client with addictions to see the bigger picture and to act (or not act) accordingly.
Mindfulness and meditation also offer a substitute for the addictive substance or activity. Meditation can be described as a "positive addiction" in that it can—and should—become habit forming. It has some of the same general results that addictive substances may bring, but in a nonharmful form: Meditation is relaxing, it reduces stress, and it provides a sense of immediate gratification.
This program features an example of one mindfulness technique called "urge surfing." This involves focus on the breath and a guided meditation in which Dr. Marlatt shows the client how to "surf" the craving for substances: An urge to use alcohol or other substances may be seen as a wave in that it starts small, gets bigger, crests, and finally subsides. This mindfulness technique allows the client to use the focus on the breath as a "surfboard" for riding the wave of addictive craving rather than giving in to such urges.