“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
What Is Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness is often said to be at the heart of Buddhist meditation and is essentially about developing awareness. The practice allows you to tap into what is happening in your body center, emotion center and mind center at any present moment, which can be an invaluable skill for people who have suffered trauma. The American Buddhist movement brought mindfulness to the West roughly five decades ago. Twenty years later, it was adopted as a thread of positive psychology and became more widely practiced both in and out of the field of psychology. Since 1980, thousands of scientific papers have documented the effectiveness of mindfulness. The work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, originator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), paved the way for this ancient practice to gain acceptance as a valid method for healing in the West, although its roots are deep and people have been practicing mindfulness to balance the mind, body and spirit for thousands of years.
The Mindfulness Therapy Process
You don’t need to develop a formal meditation practice—a ritual of sitting on a cushion for long periods of time—to engage in and enjoy the benefits of mindfulness. Rather, the process, which you can learn and practice in mindfulness therapy sessions, can help you become more skillful in nonjudgmentally noticing your thoughts, emotions and body sensations, as well as managing physical pain. Through increasing awareness and then accepting the ebb and flow of mental, emotional and physical discomfort, you become more able to soften and even alleviate uncomfortable ideas, memories, feelings and body sensations. When you feel oriented in your body and in your environment, you can slow your experience down and become less reactive and more responsive, which can also lessen the symptoms of hypervigilance and feelings of unsafety that are so common in trauma survivors. If you find yourself regretting the past or fearing for the future, through mindfulness, you can root yourself in the here and now, knowing that in the moment, you are safe.
Mindfulness can also be highly effective in noticing and letting go of the seductive and damaging inner critic that keeps so many of us looping around in negative thoughts, especially those of us suffering from depression and/or anxiety. The practice of mindfulness can help you identify which thoughts are stemming from depression or anxiety and separate them from those that are truly authentic. This noticing and teasing out of thoughts without judgment can make it easier to challenge the thoughts and feelings that have kept you stuck or spinning. As you clarify the truth of the situation in front of you, you can learn to make empowered choices about what you think and feel in any given moment. You can also learn that it’s okay to sometimes find yourself spiraling down the all too familiar rabbit hole of negative thinking. Simply noticing where you are at mentally, emotionally or physically gives you an opportunity to change it. Through this practice, you can also develop self-compassion and change the way you think and feel about yourself. In the work of mindful self-compassion, studies show that people who develop a self-compassion practice are significantly more likely to keep working toward goals even after what could be perceived as a setback.
You may also be hearing the word “neuroplasticity” more and more. Until the 1970s, it was believed that our basic wiring was fixed and unchangeable and that new neurons couldn’t be formed. All the brain science in the decades since then has demonstrated that, in fact, our brains are malleable throughout our lifespan and we can grow new neural connections. This means that even though we have long-established, habitual ways of thinking and behaving, we can change those patterns by literally developing new pathways in the brain.
Our Mindfulness Therapy and Trauma Therapy Practice
Central to the work we do in trauma therapy is establishing safety and making the distinction between what was then and what is now in cognitive, physiological and emotional ways. With over two decades of experience and advanced training in trauma treatment, as well as 25 years of meditation practice, we deeply understand the importance of focusing on and balancing the mind center, emotional center and body center. Along with other excellent modalities that we use for treating trauma, such as EMDR, Somatic Therapy and Attachment Repair, we incorporate mindfulness-based therapy into our sessions because of the importance of grounding into the present moment when healing from trauma. When we look—really look—around us and understand that we are safe in the moment, true healing can begin.
We use mindfulness to help treat situational trauma, developmental trauma, complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and we know both personally and professionally the healing, growth, discovery and personal awareness that can occur through the practice. No matter what you’ve suffered, you can experience more ease and calm in your current self rather than unconsciously resort to survival patterns developed through neglect or abusive or feel pulled back into the painful memories and/or feelings developed during a traumatic experience. You can develop self-compassion and accept your humanness, two skills essential to living a balanced and sane life. In a safe, guided space and through simple mindfulness exercises that you can practice in session and throughout your daily routines, you can become more present in every moment, develop a loving kindness toward yourself, recognize that the trauma is over and move forward with increased poise, presence and peace.
Foster Feelings Of Self-Compassion, Kindness And Safety
You no longer need to try to manage painful feelings or make sense of trauma on your own. If you’re in Los Angeles, CA or the surrounding area, we can help. We invite you to call our office at 310-391-5851 for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation. We’re happy to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you have about mindfulness therapy, other approaches to trauma treatment and our practice.