Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Meditative-like strategies for helping develop mindfulness

Teen Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy can be thought of as a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that incorporates meditative-like strategies for helping develop mindfulness in teens, in order to help gain relief from negative psychiatric symptoms.  Originally conceived as a technique to treat people with recurrent depression, the practice of mindfulness refers to teaching and creating the intentional awareness in teens of their own triggers, patterns, and experiences related to their mental health and/or substance abuse disorder.  The premise for this practice is that the more aware and intentional teens can become with regard to their thoughts and behaviors, the more successful they can become in achieving and maintaining relief and recovery, as well as to being equipped to prevent relapse into old problematic behaviors (and symptoms) in the future.

When adolescents learn to gain this sort of awareness, they can also learn to avoid the different triggers associated with their negative symptoms, thoughts, and/or feelings.

The value of helping teens who struggle with mental health disorders to become mindful of their own experience can’t be stressed enough.  Such awareness equips the teens to play an active role in their own recovery, both through and following treatment.  Teen mindfulness therapy emphasizes helping adolescents to become aware of their incoming thoughts and feelings and to learn to observe them, without attaching or reacting to them. If adolescents can learn to gain this sort of awareness, they can also learn to avoid the different triggers associated with their negative symptoms, thoughts, and/or feelings.  The value of such an interception cannot be stated enough.

These sorts of “triggers” are one of the most difficult aspects for teens that struggle with mental health symptoms, especially including anxiety and mood disorders.  For instance, it’s very common for a teen with an Anxiety Disorder to be triggered by a certain thought, and then be uncontrollably led into an overwhelming place of anxiety, where the negative thoughts and fears take over their entire experience.  Though the feelings and worries that teens may feel during these low points may not be logical, the common experience is that once this cycle starts, it’s very difficult to escape from it.  A similar process happens for teens suffering from depression, where a relatively simple trigger can send teens plunging to a depressive low that may last for days or possibly even weeks.

Triggers also play a pivotal role for teens struggling with substance abuse, who experience a trigger to use, and then become vulnerable to relapse.  Therefore, if teenagers can gain the mindfulness necessary to avoid these moments of triggering, then they can avoid the oncoming thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from which they’re suffering.  And if teens can learn to navigate the conflicts and struggles of their lives without falling susceptible to such triggers, then they’re going to be successful in their recovery and health moving forward.

Beyond just teaching teens to become aware of and avoid their triggers, teen mindfulness-based cognitive therapy also has been shown to help teens to actually experience fewer triggers over time, even including reduced desire to use substances.  Some of this may be due to the brain experiencing delayed gratification of the substance, which can help to reform the brain’s urge for that substance, over time.  Furthermore, the meditation practices within mindfulness therapy have been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain, one function of which is regulation and self-control.

At Paradigm, we often use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy alongside a number of different therapeutic techniques and approaches, all designed and determined according to each teen’s individual needs, symptoms, and goals during treatment.  We find that these techniques work very compatibly with our other forms of treatment, thereby helping us to design the most thorough, precise, and cutting-edge treatment possible, for every teen who walks through our doors.

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