Mindfulness in mental health and prison settings
Mindfulness in mental health and prison settings

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Mindfulness in mental health and prison settings

2 Mindful therapy

In ‘Mindfulness’ from Mad or Bad: A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology, you read about how mindfulness has been found to be helpful for many mental health difficulties, and you explored some of the ways in which mindfulness can work in counselling practice with clients.

Watch this animation, created by some of the course authors at The Open University, for a bit more about why the mindfulness idea of ‘being present’ is so useful – in general, and in therapy in particular.

Download this video clip.Video player: Being present in therapy – key ideas in therapy
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Transcript: Being present in therapy – key ideas in therapy

No matter how good a therapist is -- how many books they've read or letters appear after their name -- they do need to 'turn up' to sessions. And that's not just physically, it's emotionally. A good therapist knows how to be present, to give their full attention no matter what the client's like or how difficult the subject matter. They don't always drift off and get distracted. They don't make clients feel like only certain sides of them are okay.
A good therapist can sit with the client, whoever they are, and whatever they bring. We're often taught that some feelings are okay and others aren't, which stops us navigating our emotions comfortably. By tolerating whatever a client brings, the therapists can show them a healthy way to relate to their own emotions.
You can practise being present through mindfulness, which comes from Buddhist teachings from over 2,000 years ago. The Buddha taught that human suffering is rooted in craving, trying to hold on to what we want and get rid of what we don't want. The Buddha stressed the importance of just being with our experiences, noticing them, without trying to change them. Mindfulness is about being present in your whole experience, whatever you're doing, thinking or feeling.
Therapists have to be present with themselves before they can be present with others. Some therapists teach their clients mindful techniques, such as meditation. Here, you sit comfortably and breathe, letting all of your sensations, thoughts and feelings come and go. Don't try to hold on to them or get rid of them, just notice how they bubble up and drift away. It's not easy, and you'll definitely get distracted. When this happens, just notice it and come back to the present moment, and the feeling of your breath. It's important to be gentle and kind with yourself.
You can practise being present during everyday tasks too, like washing up, brushing your teeth or walking the dog. The idea is to gradually shift your habit of trying to grasp what you want, and hurl away what you don't want, so that you can be more open to the whole of your experience. And it all starts with this very moment -- now
End transcript: Being present in therapy – key ideas in therapy
Being present in therapy – key ideas in therapy
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Activity 2 Mindfulness in counselling

From reading the chapter and watching the animation, come up with a list of ways in which therapists or counsellors could bring mindfulness into their work with clients.

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There are three ways in which counsellors can bring mindfulness into therapy:

  1. counsellors offering mindfulness ideas and practices to their clients
  2. counsellors practising mindfulness themselves
  3. cultivating a mindful therapeutic relationship.

You’ll cover these in more detail next.


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