We live in exciting times. Psychological therapy, or mind medicine, which for so long has adopted the same symptom-reduction emphasis used in traditional Western body medicine, is undergoing a radical shift in perspective! Brain-scanning technology is now sufficiently well enough developed to have begun to accumulate an impressive body of evidence to show that sustained application of meditation and other contemplative practices can actually bring about physical changes in brain-structures associated with the experience of well-being and peace and ease of mind.
Follow this link for up to date research evidence.
These practices – developed and refined over thousands of years in the Eastern psycho-spiritual traditions,(Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist) – which may have previously been discounted or scorned as unscientific, are now finding their place in the latest developments in psychological treatment for such 'modern malaises' as depression, stress, anxiety, chronic pain and many other chronic conditions including: PTSD, addiction, OCD ... the list continues to grow as positive outcome evidence continues to accumulate.
Traditional 'symptom reduction' is still OK – whilst it works. Trouble is, patient goes to therapist saying: “I can't get on with my life, my symptoms are getting in the way” - therapist & patient agree to a course of treatment aimed at symptom reduction in order that patient can get on with life again. And in far too many instances, life then remains 'on hold' as one course of treatment after another is tried, as new treatments are offered to attempt to manage the disturbing side-effects of the initial treatment. Subtly - yet rapidly – the agenda shifts from 'getting on with life' to 'getting rid of symptoms'. Yet with new symptoms appearing?
(ACT has a few metaphors which really hit the spot: that of struggling to get free from quicksand, or that of finding yourself stuck in a hole and – seeing a spade as the only obvious tool within reach – getting stuck into trying to dig yourself out of it!)
What the contemplative traditions have long since realized is that - over and above whatever may be going on at the physical/physiological level - whatever it is, (in psychological, 'internal', subjective experience) that is seized upon by minds' awareness and judged to be 'undesirable', then that 'it' becomes potentised or empowered by our desire to be rid of it. (Have you ever noticed that with sounds from the neighbour’s house at night when you're trying to sleep?)
The M&A approaches focus very much upon getting back into living a valued life as the primary agenda, and additionally offers powerful 'mind-training' techniques to help us become more present with present moment experience – of whatever the flavour! And to notice - moment by moment - that the verbal commentary accompanying the flow of experience (commentary which we had assumed was accurately describing our experience) – is in a very real sense defining that experience and 'bringing it into being' as those words, that language, the imagery and the memory of our thinking persuade us of our next reactive or avoidant steps. A new relationship to thought – thought as an ongoing process of internal experience, yes OK, but thought as 'reality'? Literally, that's taking thought too seriously!
Like a super-computer using a program called 'language'. It's phenomenally clever at it in the external world (look around you now, listen ...sense …there's probably very little that isn't 'mind contrived & fabricated: chair, wall, roof, computer, shirtsleeves ... all solved problems!) When it comes solving problems in the internal world, however ... particularly when thinking about how to be rid of undesirable thoughts?... well, it's quicksand time! Good news – neither hypnotized by them, nor at war with them - there are other ways of being with thoughts!
I’ll quote Daniel Goleman –(the psychologist who popularized the term ‘emotional intelligence’ in the 90’s)
“Consciousness is the medium which carries the messages which compose experience.
Psychotherapies are concerned with these messages and their meanings; meditation
instead directs itself to the nature of the medium, consciousness. These two approaches
are by no means mutually exclusive; rather, they are complementary. A therapy of the
future may integrate techniques from both approaches, possibly producing a change
in the whole person more thoroughgoing and more potent than either in isolation”
- (Varieties of Meditative Experience,1988)
That ‘therapy of the future’ is now here in the form of the mindfulness and acceptance approaches. The two forms of this therapy which I shall be discussing on these pages are: (click on links for more details) Mindfulness based cognitive therapy, MBCT This is an eight-week group format requiring commitment and regular homework practice; the intention is that, on completion, participants will have cultivated and established a daily mindfulness practice routine which will sustain and nourish them long after the courses is over.
It was modeled on the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, MBSR – which had particularly good results with chronic pain. Other 8 week MB courses have been developed to target addiction. Essentially similar, the courses are generally helpful in alleviating the suffering associated with many chronic psychological and physical conditions.
ACT can be offered as an individual, one-to-one therapy and as group work. ACT training - delivered as coaching or group work for the workplace and the business world - has accumulated an impressive evidence base as an integrated tool-kit for optimising life / work balance, well-being and effectiveness in the work-force.
ACT doesn’t rely upon establishing a daily mindfulness practice. Instead it teaches of 6 inter-related core processes which together contribute to both the acceptance of internal experiences, and a commitment to valued life actions. Essentially it’s about fostering greater psychological flexibility.
Please follow this link for more information about ACT and its core processes.
And visit www.martinwilks.com to find out more about me, how and whre I work etc. etc.