If you’ve never practiced mindfulness before, you may find that it’s surprisingly difficult. Even when you try your hardest to concentrate on something, other thoughts have a way of creeping in. It’s normal. But with practice, you can learn to focus your full attention on the here and now. According to a new study published in the March issue of JAMA, mindfulness training may be better than cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or the 12 Steps to help people going through outpatient drug rehab avoid relapse.
What is mindfulness? Simply put, mindfulness is a meditation technique in which you give your full attention to whatever is happening right now, in the moment. In order to practice mindfulness, you refrain from judging these experiences. You merely recognize and process them, giving your full attention to the task.
Understanding the Usual Methods for Outpatient Drug Rehab
CBT and 12-Step treatment are considered the usual methods of treatment for addicts going through outpatient drug rehab. The 12-Step program is based, of course, on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s a philosophy that places a heavy emphasis on spirituality, accountability and social support.
CBT is a newer therapy that has been found to be more effective for addiction treatment than the 12-Step program. That’s not to say that the 12-Step program has no value or that it shouldn’t have a place in your addiction treatment program. Because both treatment methods have their benefits, both are usually administered to help people going through drug or alcohol rehab.
When you go through CBT, you learn to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that cause you to abuse substances. This knowledge enables you to nip relapse in the bud before it begins, by recognizing those patterns of thought and belief that might otherwise lead you to take drugs. What’s more, CBT helps you learn to replace negative or unhealthy thoughts and beliefs with healthier, positive ones. By changing your thoughts and beliefs in this manner, you can change your behaviors.
Mindfulness Training for Outpatient Drug Rehab
For the study, researchers compared the effects of mindfulness training with those of CBT and 12-Step therapy for people going through addiction treatment. After six months, they found that those who were going through CBT or mindfulness were both less likely to relapse after finishing treatment. In the short term, the researchers found that CBT was just as effective as mindfulness at preventing relapse.
But over the longer term, the researchers found that mindfulness began to appear more effective. When the researchers followed up with study participants at the 12-month mark, they discovered that those who had received mindfulness training as part of their drug rehab program were still more likely to be sober, while those who had received CBT as part of their training were just as likely to have relapsed as those who had received 12-Step treatment alone. One year after having finished drug treatment, the participants who had received mindfulness training had experienced 31 percent fewer drug use days and were far more likely to have refrained from heavy drinking.
So how does mindfulness training help with outpatient drug rehab? If you’re going through rehab, mindfulness training can make you more able to notice drug cravings before they become overpowering, and can help you sit with cravings without succumbing to them. For people going through outpatient drug rehab, mindfulness training can help you let go of troublesome thoughts that make you crave alcohol and drugs, and can make it easier to cope with stress. Mindfulness helps you turn your attention to other things – such as what you’re experiencing right now, in the moment – giving you an alternative to dwelling on your cravings and your desire to return to drug use.
So if you’re going through drug rehab, make sure that mindfulness training is part of your treatment program. When you practice mindfulness, you’re exercising the mental muscles that help you endure life’s uncomfortable moments. That’s a skill that can help you overcome addiction, and so much more.
If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction, we can help. Call FHE Health today at 844-299-0618 to learn more about our inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs.