Applying Mindfulness-Based Behavioral Therapies to Youth Addiction Recovery

mindfulness therapies

Mindfulness-based behavioral therapies have become increasingly popular in the U.S. school system over the past decade. Many of these programs use the concepts of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of internal or external situations and experiences with an accepting, non-judgmental attitude. This is often accomplished using various meditation exercises.

Pilot programs in many schools have shown the successful application of MBSR in children. There is a growing interest in applying MBSR to adolescents and teens in addiction recovery programs. Evidence shows that the outcomes are positive in the same way as MBSR in schools.

MBSR Use in School Intervention Programs

MBSR is increasingly being applied to different programs in schools throughout the United States. The practice has been successfully applied to behavior therapy, therapy for children struggling with ADHD, and children with learning disabilities. The push towards MBSR began when there was profound evidence of the negative impact of stress and emotional distress on children’s cognitive and behavioral development.

The amount of evidence promoting MBSR in schools is growing, and many trial programs have already been put into place. This is due to the theory that schools should foster the behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of their students. Educators, administrators, and psychiatrists have collaborated on the best ways to make the learning environment conducive to fostering all of those aspects of childhood development.

Even so, many researchers point out that the enthusiasm for MBSR in schools overwhelms the amount of evidence supporting it. The increasing number of pilot programs, books, and articles indicate that adding mindfulness into education is received with great interest and is seen as a potentially feasible, cost-effective, and promising approach.

Some successful applications of MBSR in schools are:

  • Increased focus in children with ADHD
  • Reduction of stress and depression in children with externalizing disorders
  • Reduction of anxiety and stress
  • Increased social skills in children with learning disorders

Applying MBSR to Youth Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness exercises are meant to allow a person to confront negative feelings or urges with acceptance without using a substance. The reason mindfulness looks promising in regards to addiction recovery is that the avoidance of negative feelings is an influence of substance abuse.

Teaching children to accept these feelings and urges with a non-judgmental attitude provides an insight into what triggers these emotional responses. Becoming aware of these triggers allows a person to become less reactionary, which helps with impulse control. This is important when it comes to preventing relapse.

MBSR also helps children deal with traumas that can be associated with their drug abuse. Whether the trauma occurred pre-addiction, during, or while in recovery, it needs to be dealt with in order to facilitate rehabilitation. MBSR helps a child deal with trauma because they confront it and accept it.

Acceptance is not the same as approving of something. It’s not assigning a negative or positive quality to the feeling or action. Acceptance is simply admitting what is. Once a child can be honest with themselves about their feelings or urges, they can prepare themselves to deal with them in more effective and healthier ways.

Again, many pilot programs have been put in place to develop sustainable mindfulness-based treatment programs. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement, or MORE, is a program that incorporates mindfulness-based practices to promote recovery in individuals struggling with addiction.

The program has shown success in the treatment of alcohol, opiate, and nicotine abuse. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is another successful program in pilot stages that promotes the use of mindfulness to prevent relapse by increasing a child’s ability to control impulses and cravings.

The Future of Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery

There needs to be a more substantial selection of studies on mindfulness before anyone can definitively say that treatments based around the concept are in any way superior to others. What the research does suggest is that adding mindfulness exercises into a person’s treatment can improve their motivation for a successful recovery and decrease their chances of relapse. Substantial literature and research is available to make educated decisions on the best way to treat your patients. Mindfulness is not an end-all, be-all. It is just one step towards successful addiction recovery in children.

The most promising quality of mindfulness-based recovery programs is that there is a vast selection of exercises that can be adopted. This allows a provider to tailor treatment to specific patients. However, mindfulness can also be adapted to group settings. Prolonged use of mindfulness techniques gives children lifelong tools for dealing with negative emotions or urges. This makes success in their recovery even more plausible.

Interested in learning how mindfulness-based therapy can be a beneficial part of addiction recovery?

Contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 to learn more about how we utilize evidence-based clinical treatment models to foster successful recovery and an improvement in mental health.