Today was a great day.
After an early morning jog to watch the sun rise over the mariner, I downed a hearty Norwegian breakfast and headed off for day one of the 27th World Congress of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. The day held in store a Pre-Conference Workshop in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, the Official Opening Ceremony of the Congress and then a welcome reception by the Mayor of Oslo for all Congress delegates at the Oslo City Hall.
The Pre Conference Workshop was an opportunity to learn about Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and also to engage in some of the meditation practices. The workshop was conducted by Catherine Crane and Bergljot Gjelvik from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre – for more information about the Centre visit this web address: http://oxfordmindfulness.org/
MBCT is a highly experiential process that aims to make the participant more aware of the ‘self’ in separation from the ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’ that person is experiencing. The practice involves a process of bringing the person ‘back to their senses’ so to speak, by allowing them to become mindfully aware of the way their body responds to different thoughts, emotions and situations. It is this practiced awareness that can assist a person experiencing episodes of depression to identify the point where the low mood enters the body and become more aware of the warning signs that not everything is well for them in that particular moment. Studies into the effectiveness of MBCT have shown that the practice of the specific meditation skills are effective in reducing the likelihood of another bout of depression. Also, in the case of relapse, it can assist a person to recognise the signs and process the emotions more productively.
MBCT is conducted alongside traditional cognitive based therapy. Clinical trials and the research being conducted by Catherine Crane and her team at Oxford have found that participants involved in MBCT did find the processes difficult as it does call on them to ‘welcome’ the uncomfortable emotions – as it asks them to welcome all emotions, in order to create the bodily awareness as they surface. However, the evidence from the research has shown that, although not always an easy process, the use of MBCT as a tool was beneficial. There are two main aims of MBCT:
1. to expose yourself to your inner mind and environment – participants discover how mindless we actually are and can become aware of the tendency of the mind to wander. It aims to train the mind to come back in a gentle way.
2. to be curious about how emotion and thought is affecting the body? This process is referred to as ‘Decentering’ – stepping back, rather than taking thoughts as truths – see how they come, hang and disappear.
By being more aware of the thoughts that are ‘on loop’ in a person’s mind, there is potential to ‘short circuit’ these unproductive thoughts and therefore, the processes that are keeping people at risk. Throughout the practices there is an emphasis on compassion and friendly awareness and a gentleness.
The focus of the session today was very much directed at how to treat a person experiencing suicidal ideation or depressive episodes. It prompted me to ask the question of how Mindfulness can be used as a tool when people are well to promote all round well-being. It is clear that Mindfulness based practices can have benefit for anyone willing to engage in the processes and there is huge potential to incorporate the practices into the school environment to improve the concentration, wellbeing and attention of the students in our care. There are some great resources out there on Mindfulness based practices for schools. I’ll include some of the links below.
http://mindfulnessinschools.org/ (this organisation is connected to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
Today we engaged in five different Mindfulness based practices which involved guided meditation that encouraged us to become anchored, to become aware of our physical sensations – in particular, our breath, and also to become aware of our thoughts and the workings of our mind – in a non-judgemental and gentle way.
In the context of schools, mindfulness based practices certainly have a place with our students and their holistic wellbeing. It was clear, however, that when dealing with students in the ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ zones (as they are known in the realms of positive psychology) the MCGT practices can certainly benefit them, but it needs to be conducted in a controlled environment, with a trained professional – in conjunction with traditional CBT practices. Most studies conducted on the success of MBCT have been conducted with adults, but Catherine Crane informed me that they have just had a feasibility study approved to conduct research and testing on 500 secondary school aged young people in the UK to test the benefits of the practice on young people.
The presenters are going to send out the powerpoint slides from today’s workshop – with their permission I’ll post them here once I receive them.
More info to follow tomorrow.