When speaking of different training methods in which future therapists and different mental health professionals are trained, it has always been noted the importance of implementing the use of mindfulness in the academic program, especially in this study, in which Campbell and Christopher (2012) investigate for over a decade the effects of teaching mindfulness to the students in training. The study produced different results, but the most significant part is the importance given to the counselor’s mental health and well-being so this way the counselor can transmit and have a positive co-transference with clients.
As investigated by the authors, the main goal of a successful psychotherapy is the physical, emotional, spiritual and cognitive involvement of the mental health professional. This full involvement develops a “working alliance” between the client and the professional. According to the authors, having a successful working alliance leads to effective outcomes in whichever treatment the mental health professional considers most effective for each specific client situation. Thus, the working alliance is a common factor for all treatments and all clients. With that being said, the authors went deeper into investigation and brought ideas from big names in the history of mental health, one of these being Carl Rogers (1957) that stated that unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding, and congruence was one of the conditions a therapist should accomplish. Meaning that, although the therapist has these obligations as mentioned earlier, the therapist also has the freedom to be himself, bring his experience, which is the opposite of building a façade.
This genuine process of involvement requires the therapist to be mindful and self-reflective. According to the author’s investigations, a self-aware and self-reflective therapist goes through a learning process in which the professional is constantly aware of his feelings and knows when and how to communicate them to the client. As part of the investigative process of this research, the authors implement the use of mindfulness in the curricula. The course consisted of a three credit elective course that implemented mindfulness, yoga and qigong (physical stretching exercises similar to tai chi), meditation, readings and most importantly, the students were encouraged to practice some form of mindfulness outside of the classroom.
Mindfulness according to the authors’ investigation is a condition of total awareness, acceptance of emotions, thoughts and sensations as they become active in the individual. Mindfulness is also linked to influence how mental health professionals relate to their emotional life because this practice fosters compassion for others and the actual self. Thus, mindful practices helped counselors in training to relate themselves and others with more authenticity, responsiveness, and tolerance. Also, the active practice of mindfulness has been linked to the decrease of burnout.
Lastly, the results revealed that teaching mindfulness to counselors in training increases awareness of others and self. Also, the training helped the counselors develop or increase acceptance of others and self. Other scattered reports in the same study reflected that students in training showed a significant increase in self-awareness, patience, sympathetic, mentally focused, responsive, attentive and more prepared to handle strong emotions. Lastly, the practice of mindfulness help the counselors in training and current professionals to harbor presence which in the end will help develop a healthy and positive work alliance.
Mindfulness, as a form of meditation, helps quiet the noise in the mind allowing individuals to ruminate less. Mindfulness has been shown to lower anxiety and negative affect while improving the individual’s capacity for hope, self-regulation, clarification of values, cognitive and behavioral flexibility, and exposure (Shapiro, 2009, p.555).
Mindfulness develops an individual’s self-awareness, which allows him to identify patterns (both desirable and undesirable) in his behavior and adjust accordingly. The lack of judgment enables the person to explore otherwise negative or unpleasant emotions and sensations in an objective manner. Mindfulness can also help improve the quality of social relationships of individuals, improving their social support network. In my opinion, mindfulness is such a complete exercise that could even reduce aggression while improving satisfaction in our relationships, it also increases our abilities to respond to conflict in a positive manner, and as mentioned in the article, it will increase sympathy significantly.
Mindfulness requires the individual to be consciously aware of their immediate experience, without distracting thoughts. When walking with a mindful philosophy, a person is attuned to the feeling of the sidewalk underneath his feet, the way his foot lands and pushes forward, the breeze on his face, the greenness of the grass beside him, and other details of the present moment. Mindfulness also involves perceiving the time without judgment. People should not be self-conscious about the way they look, or the sound of their steps, nor should judge the beauty of the scene around them. When practicing mindfulness, it is important to experience the present moment actively (Shapiro, 2009, p. 560).
Through mindfulness, it becomes greatly easier to improve one’s relationships, most likely through attunement to what others may be thinking or perceiving. Mindfulness also helps one develop and enrich our style of communication. These factors often foster more supportive relationships. Hence, the positive influence this practice will have in our professional career as mental health practitioners. Having a balanced, rich, attuned and aware self-will help any professional.
Campbell, J. C., & Christopher, J. C. (2012). Teaching mindfulness to create effective counselors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(3), 213-226. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.fiu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.fiu.edu/docview/1027919921?accountid=10901
Rogers, C. R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of consulting psychology, 21(2), 95.
Shapiro, S. L. (2009). The integration of mindfulness and psychology. Journal of Clinical Psychology J. Clin. Psychol., 65(6), 555-560. Retrieved September, 2016