For those struggling with addiction, practicing mindfulness can be extremely beneficial throughout the path to recovery (Conyers, 2020). Mindfulness, traditionally a Buddhist practice, has been used for thousands of years as a way to become fully present and aware (Cole, 2020). Essentially, mindfulness allows us to open our minds to a deeper understanding of not only ourselves, but our place in the world (Conyers, 2020). The benefits of mindfulness are many, and its practice helps individuals to reduce their anxiety and handle emotions in a healthier way (Conyers, 2020).
If you’re considering a career as an addictions counsellor, your role will be to help individuals struggling with addiction to develop techniques to cope and avoid relapsing. Implementing mindfulness into your approach can be beneficial to your clients, as it can help clients to gain more control over their minds (Conyers, 2020) and adopt new ways of changing their behaviour (Hartney, 2021).
Discover more about this approach and how it can be implemented below.
Some of the Reasons That Mindfulness Can Help with Addiction
Mindfulness is a valuable tool for those suffering from addiction. Addiction is often caused by certain behaviours and thoughts which develop into a dangerous cycle of reliance and relapse (Cole, 2020). When our brains become shaped to engage in certain behaviours, it can be difficult to break free of them (Conyers, 2020). Clients are often unaware of how negative emotions or triggers can lead to addiction (Hartney, 2021). However, mindfulness offers a way for those with addictive behaviours to reshape their brain (Cole, 2020). Through mindfulness exercises, those with addiction are empowered to change the ways that they would normally react to cravings or urges, rupturing the link between cravings and substance abuse or other addictive behaviour (Wood, 2016).
Those with addictions counsellor training backgrounds can teach clients to adopt mindfulness, helping them to pay attention to their emotions, understand their addiction triggers, and increase awareness of their addictive behaviour (Wood, 2016). Using mindfulness, clients will be able to listen to what their bodies and thoughts are telling them, guiding them to a better understanding of themselves and enabling them to make healthier decisions (Talley, 2016). When a craving arrives, those struggling with addiction can use mindfulness to refocus their minds and regain the control necessary to let go of that overwhelming urge (Wood, 2016).
Teaching Clients to Be More Present and Awareness of Urge Surging
One of the ways that you can help clients to adopt mindfulness is by teaching them to be more present (Conyers, 2020). When clients are aware of being present in each moment, it means they’ll be able to pay more attention to simple things that might seem mundane, like the smell of a flower. This will help them to stay grounded and resist the urge to “escape” through substance use or other addictive behaviours (Conyers, 2020).
Another mindfulness approach to teach clients after getting your addiction counsellor diploma is that of urge surging. Urge surging involves recognizing and observing the sensations of urges, while understanding that these feelings don’t need to be surrendered to (Spina Horan, 2021). By honing in on them, breathing and staying present in the current moment, mindfulness will allow the urge to eventually pass (Spina Horan, 2021).
Lastly, clients can be helped in adopting mindfulness by teaching them to practice viewing themselves with compassion (Conyers, 2020) and non-judgment (Spina Horan, 2021). Judgment can heighten emotions and feelings of shame, triggering addictive behaviours (Spina Horan, 2021). When seeing themselves with compassion, clients will be able to understand that they deserve healthy, meaningful connections, allowing them to move away from the negative emotions that may lead to relapses (Conyers, 2020).
Goals of Using Mindfulness Detailed for Those In Addictions Counsellor Training
Helping your clients to adopt mindfulness approaches can equip them with the skills necessary to improve their regulation of emotions and discourage negative reactive behaviours (Spina Horan, 2021). In becoming an addictions counsellor, your goal is to help clients to take responsibility for themselves and regain the control necessary to improve the quality of their lives. Mindfulness can be incorporated as a component of your counselling techniques to help clients move past their addiction, encouraging them to turn to their own natural internal coping mechanisms rather than fixating on relief in the form of a substance (Wood, 2016). When mindfulness is integrated into your approach during your career, you’ll succeed in helping clients to help themselves.
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Cole, R. (2020, November 3). The Science Behind Mindfulness Therapy and Recovery. Achieve Whole Recovery. https://achievewholerecovery.com/2020/11/03/mindfulness-therapy-and-recovery/
Conyers, B. (2020, April 17). 5 Mindfulness Practices to Step Up Your Recovery. Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/conyers/5-mindfulness-practices-to-step-up-your-recovery
Hartney, E. (2021, March 29). How Mindfulness Can Be Used for Treating and Prevention Addictions. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-mindfulness-21854
Spina Horan, K. (2021, March 28). Can Mindfulness Help With Addiction Recovery? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-reality-gen-z/202103/can-mindfulness-help-addiction-recovery
Talley, J. (2016, November 11). The Practice of Mindfulness in Addiction Therapy. Renascent. https://renascent.ca/mindfulness-addiction-therapy/
Wood, T. (2016, April 2). Ultimate Guide to Mindfulness and Addiction. Rehab 4 Alcoholism. https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com/latest-news/ultimate-guide-to-mindfulness-and-addiction#:%7E:text=Mindfulness%20helps%20patients%20to%20react%20differently%20to%20automatic,also%20helps%20people%20to%20react%20to%20discomfort%20differently.