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Mindful : August 2016
ELIZABETH 43, Emergency Physician and Psychotherapist in Training I had been suggesting to patients that they check out mindfulness and see if it was beneficial for them. After a while I realized maybe I should check it out and see if it was beneficial for me! Back in medical school I suffered from depression. You come into contact with so much trauma and death and you don’t really have much guidance to help you through very emotional situations. I had a lot of rotations in oncology. It trig- gered a depressive episode and I star ted on antidepres- sants, which didn’t work out that great for me. It made me feel horrible. Eventually I was able to get by without them. I went to a bunch of talk ther- apy but, frankly, that was very thinky. And what I needed was to be less thinky. Mind- fulness helps me do that. You can watch yourself really wanting things to be different, and if you stick with it and keep explor- ing, it goes away. Passing clouds. Sometimes things are really hard but if you stick with them they change and you gain something beautiful. This practice has made me a better boss. I’m less reactive and I can notice when my personal agenda is getting in the way. In one of my MBCT ses- sions we were doing move- ment. I was distracted and having a hard time pulling my attention into moving. Then I noticed one of the instructors standing by the window. He didn’t seem to be sticking with the program. Then I noticed he was trying to get a lady bug that was crawling up the window to fall into his hand. He succeeded and he walked the lady bug to the other side of the room and put it in a planter. Technically he wasn’t where he was “sup- posed to be” but he certainly was in the moment. That’s real mindfulness. It’s not about playing by the rules, it’s about compassion. It also brought her to look at MBCT, which was in its early stages at that point, and to “track down” Segal at a professional meeting and tell him “I need to learn this.” He agreed to supervise her at a distance, over time they grew to be colleagues, and now the two have taught MBCT together many times, including to a group of people who agreed to have their sessions filmed for the web-based Mindful Mood Balance program. Dimidjian and Segal are mutually committed to two main principles: scientific rigor and caring for the most number of people possible. These two interrelate: Scientific validation leads to more popular acceptance in public health institutions. They also conflict: Good science moves slowly. Recognizing this, like others, they have been moving on both fronts: pro- moting good science, while keeping a laser focus on the needs of the mil- lions of Harrys out there. For several years, they worked on the landmark paper mentioned above, “Prospects for a Clinical Science of Mindful- ness-Based Intervention.” When a field becomes trendy, there’s a whack of studies, but after a while you have to ask, “So, where is all this going?” It’s one thing to study the hell out of something (think of all the research you’ve heard about wine and coffee); it’s another thing entirely to effect real change in how we live. They surveyed the voluminous number of studies of mindful- ness-based interventions and mapped them according to a National Insti- tutes of Health model of stages of research that charts the course of research from basic research (iden- tifying the nature of disorders to be treated), through research that establishes efficacy (a given treat- ment works in a controlled setting), through to effectiveness, implementa- tion, and dissemination (the treatment can actually reach people in need through existing or newly devel- oped delivery systems with minimal decrease in quality and efficacy). There are many pitfalls and dead ends in the pathway from lab research → MARIKA 33, Child Psychologist What I love about MBCT is the whole structure. It star ts with a focus on attention, and then moves to training in emotional awareness, and ends with building skills for life. Mindfulness allows you to shift modes of mind, which is an incredible skill to acquire, because getting stuck in one way of thinking can get us into all sorts of trouble, right? It’s very helpful if you can shift out of a frustrated problem solving mode and just appreciate what’s happening. That can prevent the spiral down into depression. August 2016 mindful 53 psychology