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Drug treatment facilities nationwide seek to integrate emerging therapies into their treatment programs. These programs hope to give newly recovering addicts more tools in overcoming their drug and/or alcohol addiction once and for all. Over the past decade, there has been a growing emphasis on mindfulness-based therapy programs. As the name implies, mindfulness refers to an individual being fully aware in the present moment. Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is an excellent example of this emerging therapy philosophy. There are many mindfulness based relapse prevention strategies activities.

If you are unfamiliar with Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), you are not alone. The following article with define MBRP, how it is administered in a treatment setting, and how it can benefit one’s recovery.

What is Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention?

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention can be seen as a hybrid-type therapy. MBRP combines mindfulness based practices such as meditation and yoga with standard therapies which are grounded in cognitive-behavior therapy. When compared to other therapy modalities, MBRP are unique in the fact that people learn to cultivate acceptance and self-compassion in the present moment—and that includes the onset of cravings and triggers.

Traditionally, therapy did not address awareness and acceptance as far as addiction is concerned. Licensed clinical social worker Kay Colbert stated the following:

In traditional addiction treatment, clients are often encouraged not to think about their drug/alcohol cravings, as thinking about them may lead to one to use/relapse. It’s part of the old “beware the sleeping tiger” metaphor still taught in many treatment facilities today (comparing addiction to a sleeping tiger, just waiting to pounce upon the person the minute they let down their abstinence guard).

Mindfulness based relapse prevention teaches addicts that urges and cravings are normal. When confronted with these phenomena, MBRP therapists teach clients to accept and roll with urges and cravings through a technique called urge surfing. With this technique, clients understand that urges come and pass in a relatively short period of time. Instead of panicking when an urge or craving hits, clients simply understand and accept them and they will dissipate on their own.

How Does Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention Work?

Mindfulness based relapse prevention is comprised of three different modalities:

  1. Mindfulness based stress reduction techniques
  2. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
  3. Relapse prevention techniques

These modalities are seen as fluid and can be tailored to individual and group needs. In total, clients attend a total of 8 sessions lasting two hours each session. In addition to formal sessions, clients are expected to practice techniques in the home. Each session has a central theme which can range from relapse and awareness of triggers and cravings to acceptance and skill action and seeing thoughts at face value. Regardless of the theme, the main goals of MBRP are to cultivate present awareness, mindfulness, and acquiring the tools to create and maintain a balanced life.

Through each session, MBRP aims to instill in each client the following:

  • Encourages clients to become familiar with their thoughts, emotional reactions & behavioral patterns.
  • Emphasizes the danger of a lapse or relapse while encouraging clients to recognize they still have the choice to cope effectively following a lapse.
  • Incorporates mindful skills, based on self-compassion & acceptance of all experiences, including cravings and urges.
  • Provides an effective & skillful means for diligent, intentional behavior change, while emphasizing kindness to self & others & flexibility.
  • Encourages clients to acknowledge, feel & accept discomfort when it arises & to understand the experience intimately rather than to endlessly run away from it.
  • Is a compassionate approach of openness & acceptance rather than guilt, blame & shame about behavior.

The progression of MBRP therapy leads each client from automatic thinking to total awareness. When clients are more aware of their triggers, they can implement mindful practices in order to create healthier routines. With these measures in place, clients are better equipped to adopt a more balanced lifestyle.

Does MBRP Work with 12-Step Programs?

An obvious benefit of MBRP is its flexibility, and it can compliment 12-step groups in drug treatment programs. This form of therapy fits in nicely with 12-step support groups in the fact that themes such as acceptance, letting go of control and use of mindfulness techniques such as meditation and prayer are common hallmarks in both. While MBRP does compliment 12-step programs in these areas, there are instances where MBRP and 12-step programs run into friction. These areas include the concept of powerlessness and seeking the help of a “higher power”.

Another concept in which mindfulness based relapse prevention may run into differences with 12-step programs is regarding abstinence. While MBRP does support abstinence for those who seek to completely quit drugs and alcohol, the program itself does not insist on complete abstinence. As a result, this therapy approach can be used in harm reduction-based programs.

Main Benefits of Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention Therapy

The obvious benefit of MBRP therapy is the fact that the client is empowered to take control of the feelings that give birth to urges and cravings. Clients learn mindfulness based relapse prevention exercises in sessions and are able to put these into practice in their home lives. As a result, clients feel comfortable and empowered to utilize these skills in their daily lives. Additionally, MBRP therapy is a relatively short therapy that is flexible by design and can be incorporated into a variety of programs.

Are You Looking to Break Free from Addiction?

Your struggles with drug and alcohol abuse can take a huge toll on your physical and psychological help. You may feel that you will never escape the grip of addiction, but help is closer than you think. Combining traditional and emerging therapies, NuView Treatment Center will help you become the healthy and happy person you long to be. As one of the best outpatient rehab Los Angeles, we work with every client in finding the programs and services they need to break the vicious cycle of addiction once and for all. Take back control of your life and call NuView Treatment Center today.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside


Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson


Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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