Mindfulness-based psychotherapies: a review of conceptual foundations empirical evidence and practical considerations

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Mindfulness-based psychotherapies: a review of conceptual foundations empirical evidence and practical considerations

Objective: This paper, composed by an interest group of clinicians and researchers based in Melbourne, presents some background to the practice of mindfulness-based therapies as relevant to the general professional reader. We address the empirical evidence for these therapies, the principles through which they might operate, some practical questions facing those wishing to commence practice in this area or to refer patients into mindfulness-based therapies, and some considerations relevant to the conduct and interpretation of research into the therapeutic application of mindfulness.

Method: Databases (e.g. PsycINFO, MEDLINE) were searched for literature on the impact of mindfulness interventions, and the psychological and biological mechanisms that underpin the effects of mindfulness practice. This paper also draws upon the clinical experience of the author group.

Results: Mindfulness practice and principles have their origins in many contemplative and philosophical traditions but individuals can effectively adopt the training and practice of mindfulness in the absence of such traditions or vocabulary. A recent surge of interest regarding mindfulness in therapeutic techniques can be attributed to the publication of some well-designed empirical evaluations of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Arising from this as well as a broader history of clinical integration of mindfulness and Western psychotherapies, a growing number of clinicians have interest and enthusiasm to learn the techniques of mindfulness and to integrate them into their therapeutic work. This review highlights the importance of accurate professional awareness and understanding of mindfulness and its therapeutic applications.

Conclusions: The theoretical and empirical literatures on therapeutic applications of mindfulness are in states of significant growth and development. This group suggests, based on this review, that the combination of some well-developed conceptual models for the therapeutic action of mindfulness and a developing empirical base, justifies a degree of optimism that mindfulness-based approaches will become helpful strategies to offer in the care of patients with a wide range of mental and physical health problems.

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2006; 40:285–294

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