When you enter addiction treatment centers, you expect to get the most modern treatment, backed by science. For this reason, many people struggle to understand the place of mindfulness in rehab. Mindfulness is an ancient Eastern practice. Can it really help Americans in addiction treatment centers in 2022?
The explanation lies in the kind of mindfulness you will learn in a rehab center. It is not a purist practice of sitting on a mountain and meditating for the rest of your life. Rather, it has become a fundamental aspect of mental health treatment in general, because of its proven efficacy.
In addiction treatment centers, Eastern and Western teachings are brought together. Here’s what you need to know.
Western Psychology and Addiction
Western psychology has taken us extremely far in our understanding of addiction. What was once seen as nothing more than a lack of willpower is now understood to be an illness. This conception of addiction has allowed us to find ways to treat those who suffer, instead of punishing them.
However, addiction treatment still fell short for a long time. Recovering addicts learned to understand how they got here, along with the triggers that remained in their lives. They learned new coping mechanisms. This helped many people heal. But relapse rates were high and this treatment did not work for everyone.
Part of the reason was that treatment focused on thoughts and narratives. While thinking can lead to better understanding, it is extremely difficult to outthink difficult feelings. This is where mindfulness comes in.
Mindfulness and Regulating Emotions
The mindfulness taught in addiction treatment centers places a major focus on regulating emotions. Most people chase what they see as positive emotions and run from so-called negative emotions. It is in doing so that people turn to substances, which make them feel “good” and numb out pain.
Mindfulness teaches us that emotions are neither good nor bad. They are all necessary, even if we don’t like them. In fact, without difficult emotions like sadness, our ability to love would be incomplete. No one wants to feel nothing after losing a loved one, for example.
Mindfulness techniques teach us to feel our emotions rather than hanging onto those we like and avoiding those we don’t. By feeling these emotions without judgment, we are no longer controlled by them. We pause instead of reacting and let them wash over us like a wave.
For recovering addicts, this ability is fundamental to staying off substances. It takes time and practice to learn, but ultimately becomes an effective tool against relapse. Instead of using substances to cope with emotions, we regulate them.
In addiction treatment centers, mindfulness is therefore a part of the treatment as a whole. Western and Eastern practices come together to offer the best chance of achieving a lasting recovery.