Mindfulness and Trauma

EMDR or Trauma-focused CBT (with exposure) are the gold standard psychotherapy treatment approaches for PTSD (NICE, 2005). However, while their is a strong evidence-base for these approaches, mindfulness processes also appear to underlie a range of treatment modalities for emotional disorders and are implicated as a potentially important component of successful trauma therapy. For example, EMDR (Lee, 2008); Metacognitive Therapy (Wells, 2009; Wells et al., 2012); ACT, DBT, Barlow’s Unified Protocol (Barlow et al., 2012; Roemer and Orsillo, 2009); Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (Ogden, 2006), and Somatic Sequencing (Levine 2005) all have mindfulness techniques as central elements in their approach. Moreover, it has been argued that mindfulness processes are important for building emotional regulation / stability, coping resources and processing trauma reactions, in terms of: reducing anxiety sensitivity and therefore habitual avoidance (Arch & Craske, 2010); increasing acceptance, self-compassion (Hoffman, Gross, & Hinton, 2011); managing intrusive thoughts, reducing worry / rumination (Lang et al., 2012); and facilitating titrated exposure and emotion processing (via dual awareness) without being overwhelmed (Briere, 2013; Lee, 2008). Consistent with these arguments, research provides preliminary evidence for MBSR as beneficial in reducing symptoms for PTSD (Briere, 2013; Polunsy et al, 2015; Lang et al., 2012), 

However, despite the aforementioned research, mindfulness-based therapy on its own is not a complete treatment framework for trauma. Rather, mindfulness practices and techniques need to be integrated into an appropriate therapeutic framework and with consideration of the client’s current needs, complexity, history, symptomatology, level of coping and access to resources. Moreover, for many clients, mindfulness can be challenging to adopt and practice, especially for clients with an extensive history of trauma and attachment difficulties. Therefore as therapists, we help clients develop mindfulness-based skills by first carefully considering their readiness for the approach, and then by the way we introduce, embody, and integrate mindfulness in our clinical work. By being well-trained and more mindful ourselves, we strengthen the therapy relationship, and facilitate safety, self-regulation, psychological integration and change.

Integrated Psychotherapy Solutions have developed a 2-day therapist training workshop for suitably qualified mental health professionals interested in integrating mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies into their clinical practice. This workshop has been delivered to a range of health professionals over the last few years, including Western Australian Department of Health Youthlink clinicians in 2015. Paul Buttigieg specialises in mindfulness and Sensorimotor therapy for trauma. If you are interested in workshops, training or clinical supervision in this area, then feel free to contact Paul for further discussion.