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Mindfulness as a Tool for Relapse Prevention

Mindfulness as Relapse Prevention Tool

Mindfulness as a Relapse Prevention Tool

The topic of relapse is unavoidable when the recovery of co-occurring substance use disorders, and a strong relapse prevention plan is a pillar of successful dual diagnosis treatment. This week we will be looking at mindfulness as a relapse prevention tool via an analysis by F. Curtis Breslin, Martin Zack, and Shelley McMain. In doing so, we will examine some of the thought processes that increase the risk of relapse, how mindfulness can change a person’s relationship to these processes, and its utility as a complement to other evidence-based treatment methods.


Relapse as Seen Through a Cognitive-Behavioral Lens

Breslin et al begin by taking a close look at relapse through a cognitive-behavioral lens. For example, the cognitive-behavioral model sees relapse as the product of a lack of appropriate skills combined with dysfunctional beliefs when encountering high-stress situations. Of these stressful situations, Breslin et al highlight the role that negative affect plays. Negative affect situations include unpleasant emotions, physical discomfort, and conflict with others. To successfully navigate these situations, Breslin et al point to previous studies (Litman, 1986; Miller, Westerberg, Harris, & Tonigan, 1996) in which confronting difficult challenges with positive thinking and increased awareness are associated with positive treatment outcomes, specifically a reduction in relapse rates. These elements are hallmarks of mindfulness practices.


Mindfulness in Practice

When we engage in mindfulness practices, we learn to accept difficult emotions and situations as they arise. Rather than becoming preoccupied with them and letting them dominate our thoughts and actions, we learn to acknowledge them, observe them, and let them pass. Indeed, we begin to learn that many of these negative affect situations are merely temporary mental events, often born out of habit. Their only power over us is that which we allow them to have. Of course, life is unavoidable. There will be difficult situations that require our attention and action. However, after practicing mindfulness, we often find that we are in a place to see these situations much more clearly and can act accordingly rather than react out of fear and habit.


Be Heard, Be Nurtured, Be Healed.

In concluding their analysis, Breslin et al suggest that mindfulness can be a powerful complement to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) by providing Clients with a supplementary skill set for dealing with emotional triggers, allowing them to desensitize to high-stress situations that they may not be able to change. Creative Care includes both CBT and mindfulness practices as part of our whole-person approach to dual diagnosis treatment. Additionally, an individualized treatment plan may include: 

Since 1989, we have helped hundreds of clients overcome their co-occurring disorders with cutting-edge, compassionate care. If you or someone you love is struggling, start the recovery process today by calling Creative Care at 855-954-0762.