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Mindfulness – A Valid Psychological Tool?

Mindfulness – A Valid Psychological Tool?

In the doublespeak marketing world of Madison Avenue it seems that every new product introduced share a common identity. Each one is “New and Improved.” Which, if you think it raises about the question, how can something new be improved?

And so it goes with mindfulness. A new and improved approach in the world of psychology or a long-hidden gem adapted to today’s clinical world? Let’s take a look. 

Origins of Mindfulness

Mindfulness fits within the family of meditative approaches. Here the mind is trained to turn away from the distractions of everyday life and is focused on a single point of reference. Rich in tradition, mindfulness offers its users a method of synchronizing their internal world with reality. Words like harmony, well-being, and balanced come to mind.

With its origins many centuries ago in the Eastern ways of Buddhism, mindfulness has come into its own in the western world of psychology in the last quarter of the 20th century.  Even now, it is primarily used as one of several techniques available to the client in therapy.

Among those who recommend its use are medical professionals, religious and secular spiritualists, personal coaches, and psychologists / psychotherapists.  It comes with high marks for its use. Here, it hangs with the others of its ilk, like:

  • Transcendental Meditation
  • Guided visualization
  • Zazen

Of these meditative approaches mindfulness may well be the most popular of meditations practiced in the western world today. Most known mindful meditation is “Vipassana” and with its emphasis on being present in the moment, the person meditating actually learns how to see their mind at work.

An advantage of mindfulness is that over time and through practice it becomes an active participant in one’s life, present when needed. I refer to it as an early warning system wherein it can alert you to events, situations, even people that may trigger a negative reaction from you.

For some, this description has a very Pollyannaish feel to it. In its purest form it certainly is not the product of the scientific community. Among the premises of scientific study done within the western way, to validate mindfulness requires independent review, study, and testing. To date the amount of empirical study completed on mindfulness remains limited.

Therapy is generally defined as treatment intended to relieve or heal a psychological disorder. There are any number of methodologies or combinations of clinical approaches used. In and of itself and for the reasons stated above, mindfulness is not broadly considered a form of psychotherapy. This article will argue that while this may be true, it does deserve consideration as such.