by John Jacobs, Ph.D., Stress Management Specialist

Mindfulness in Alcohol Rehab and Recovery

In the meditation article, I discussed mindfulness meditation. Let’s look closer at this concept called ‘mindfulness’ as it has applicability to drug and alcohol abuse/addiction recovery.

Some definitions of mindfulness:

* “Awareness of present experience with acceptance”— Germer, Segal, Fulton (2005)
* “Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” — Marlatt and Kristeller (1999)
* “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment” – Kabit-Zinn (2003)
* “Mindfulness involves intentionally bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment” – Baer (2003)

The following is a very good, insightful list on the benefits of mindfulness (found at

Cultivating mindfulness helps you:

* to be fully present, here and now
* to experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
* to become aware of what you’re avoiding
* to become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you
* to become less judgmental
* to increase self-awareness
* to become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences
* to learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
* to have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
* to learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather
* to have more balance, less emotional volatility
* to experience more calm and peacefulness
* to develop self-acceptance and self-compassion

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The practice and use of mindfulness has been incorporated into a variety of therapies, settings, and programs including:

* Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
* Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
* A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR)
* A Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)

Mindfulness for Addiction Recovery

For purposes of this article, I want to particularly note its use in stress management and relapse prevention. I’ve already discussed its general use for stress management, so a bit more now about the use of mindfulness in relapse prevention…

Besides the overall benefits of mindfulness listed above (which in themselves are beneficial for recovery), mindfulness has been specifically used in the context of relapse prevention.

In a nut shell: Mindfulness is proven effective for managing stressors and coping with other psychological issues that arise in the mind and emotions, which are major reasons why some turn to using drugs and alcohol – that is, to relieve stress and cope with issues. Additionally, because practicing mindfulness helps one remain present and conscious of what’s happening in the present moment, including when getting urges and cravings to drink or use another drug, mindfulness is a practical skill for dealing with the cravings: you learn to observe the cravings without automatically reacting to them and following through with the urge to use.

For further reading, see our article on Vipassana.

References for Citations in Article:

Baer, R (2003). Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 125-143.

Christopher K. Germer, Ronald D. Siegel, & Paul R. Fulton (Eds). (2005). Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. New York: Guilford press.

Kabit-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.

Marlatt, G. A., & Kristeller, J. L. (1999). Mindfulness and meditation. In W. R. Miller (Ed.), Integrating spirituality into treatment (pp. 67-84). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.