Using Mindfulness-Based Treatments in Addiction Recovery

adolescent mindfulness training

Mindfulness is a practice and philosophy that has been used for millennia. Originating in the Himalayan region, mindfulness teaches people to become self-aware. The philosophy teaches that by focusing on moment-to-moment experiences, a person can become aware of their behaviors and emotional reactions. This is helpful because instead of avoiding feelings and urges, a person can name and accept them. Acceptance leads to less self-judgment, and in return, a person has better tools for dealing with cravings or negative emotions.

Taking part in your child’s recovery is very important. Educating yourself on topics like substances and their effects on children, as well as different treatment programs is vital to their success. While they receive plenty of support from their treatment facilitators, recovery is a 24/7 process. This is why support at home is critical.

Mindfulness in Youth Addiction Recovery

Simply put, mindfulness brings a person’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present and is often taught through meditation exercises. There have been many studies on the effects of mindfulness-based treatments in adult populations, but the research of its effects on youth populations is emerging.

A study conducted in 2009 showed evidence of a positive change in emotional, physical, and behavioral health in children and adolescents. A different study conducted that same year focusing on teens ages 14-18 showed a significant increase in their ability to deal with stress, regulate behavior, and improve their psychological well-being. There are several key aspects of why mindfulness-based treatments are successful when treating addiction in kids.

These include qualities such as:

  • Reduced impulsiveness
  • Increased ability to accept drug cravings without using
  • Increased perception of risk in drug-use
  • An increased overall sense of well-being

These skills are essential for helping your child through their recovery process and studies have proven that mindfulness can be used to prevent relapse, as well.

What the Science Says

Because mindfulness-based treatment is an emerging practice, there has been a rush by researchers to test its success. While an overwhelming amount of evidence points towards a decrease in drug use, some evidence points to it being a selective treatment; something that is not one-size-fits-all. What research does suggest is that adding mindfulness exercises into a child’s treatment can improve their motivation and decrease their chances of relapse. This can be linked to the patient’s newfound ability to confront their emotions or impulses without judgment and become aware of what triggers their cravings.

There have been studies conducted specifically on adolescents who are mandated to participate in drug treatment programs. The outcomes are the same. There is a decreased chance of relapse and an increased ability to deal with stressors and impulses. Also, mindfulness practices increase their perceptions of risk from using drugs. Mindfulness works because it presents children with tools they can practice anywhere. Prolonged practice of mindfulness techniques supports long-term success. It provides the child with an internal process of dealing with negative emotions, impulses, or environments.

Moving Forward

Researches make a point to discuss a few assumptions about mindfulness-based treatment for youth addiction recovery. First, there is an assumption that counselors and families are interested in applying mindfulness activities to treatment programs. While many programs are being created to combine contemporary treatment programs with mindfulness-based treatments, they are not readily available everywhere. This is something to talk about with your child’s recovery facility. Ask if they are familiar with the practice and if they have any ways of applying it to your child’s treatment.

The second assumption is that facilities and families have a working knowledge of mindfulness and mindfulness-based treatments. There is no need to be an expert on mindfulness to facilitate the practice with your child. A lot of resources exist online with guides on how to introduce mindfulness to your children and keep them engaged in the practice. This also leads to the assumption that you are willing to take an active role in your child’s recovery.

The third assumption is that you have knowledge of substance abuse and addiction and their effects on children. Realize that when working with a treatment facility, questions about different types of drugs and their effects will come up. It’s important to prepare yourself by having some knowledge of these topics or knowing where to find it.

Your child’s treatment facility is a great place to start. Also, many schools have programs on drug education. Talk to your child’s school counselor and ask if they have any literature on common or popular drugs and their effects on children. Remember, taking an active part in your child’s recovery is key to their success.

To learn more about how mindfulness-based therapy can benefit your child in their recovery, please contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052. Our outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential programs are all built around evidence-based clinical treatment modalities. Our knowledgeable and compassionate staff can help your child begin to lead a happier, healthier life and decrease their chances of relapse.