Mindfulness CBT finds its origins in Eastern Buddhist meditation which began many centuries ago. Recent studies on CBT with mindfulness (Hayes, Follette and Linehan, Mindfulness and Acceptance Guilford, 2004) have shown psychological effectiveness across a wide range of clinical problems. These include anxiety, depression, stress management, OCD, social anxiety and personality disorders.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of observing thoughts, images and feelings in an accepting way without either:
a)engaging with them, stepping back to interpret them in the traditional way. CBT steps back into an observer hypothesis testing position to reality - test and challenge negative automatic thoughts
distraction techniques to try to suppress and/or escape from them.
How does it work?
When a client comes for CBT their natural disposition is analyse and interpret their negative thoughts. They want to find a solution to problems in their thinking in the same way as they would want a practical solution to the problems faced in every day life, i.e. career, health, financial, external conditions in the world around them.
But thinking problems do not always lead themselves to a mechanistic, pragmatic problem solving exercise. This is generally because these negative thoughts and the
emotional pain are initially caused by events which happened long ago, in childhood, or at least have their roots or point of origin there. This makes them less amenable to standard CBT, where negative thoughts can be identified, and reframed in an alternative and more balanced way.
The trend in CBT into the realms of mindfulness, compassion and ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) address the fact that although, like CBT, the interpretation of events and not the events themselves (what Marsha Linehane calls WISE MIND vs Emotional Mind) and rather than wanting to restructure them, that is at the heart of this "third wave" of the behavioural therapies.
The normal thinking process reacts to a negative thought, image or feeling which presents itself to the mind, by engaging with that thought. In CBT the term MAGNIFICATION is used as an error in logic which means that, as one thought comes into the mind, we associate and chain it with another thought until it gets bigger and bigger.
If I think that I am going to fail a forthcoming exam, or make a fool of myself while making a presentation, or be rejected by someone I ask out on a date, my mind will act like a computer in a negative feedback loop and give me all of the similar situations in my life when similar things have happened. This has a snowball effect because I fix my mind on these until these thoughts seem like an obstacle as big as Mount Everest would be to climb.
The alternative to fixing and magnifying negative events would be to DISTRACT myself from them by doing something different to try to escape from them. The problem with this is that, consistent with the literature of avoiding negative thoughts, the more we try to escape from them the more prevalent they become in our minds.