mindful pain management

A brief history of mindfulness with Dr Nick

Mon July 18th 2016

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the secular approach originally developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn after his '15 seconds of insight' during a meditation retreat in the late nineteen seventies. His insight was that maybe he could take the concept of mindfulness and turn it into an approach that may help people for whom medicine no longer had anything to offer. He persuaded the University Hospital in Massachusetts to let him start a stress reduction clinic, which became the foundation of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Centre that runs today. They have subsequently trained thousands of mindfulness teachers around the world. MBSR is an 8-week course of around 2 hours per week combined with home practice and practical exercises.

Some years later Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was introduced by 3 researchers Williams, Teasdale and Segal who were searching for a program that might help people stop relapsing into bouts of clinical depression. Their research showed that teaching people MBCT stopped almost 50% of people relapsing back into depression and more recent research shows that this approach is also helpful for people who are currently depressed or have what is known as 'treatment resistant depression'. The robust research was commented on by Professor Mark Williams some years ago as ' like discovering a whole new class of drugs that don't have any side effects'. MBCT is also an 8-week program.

MBCT underpinned the development of a program designed for adolescents and teenagers in the United Kingdom called dot b (.b), which was developed by 3, experienced class room teachers who were also experienced mindfulness meditators. The Mindfulness In Schools Project (MiSP) now trains teachers who have a background in mindfulness themselves to teach the program which is designed to appeal to teenagers with animated slides, videos and short mindfulness practices. The course is well established in the UK and is currently the subject of a Six million pound study to follow seven thousand 11-14 year olds half of who will be taught the program. The course is 10 lessons of around 45 minutes each.

Dot b was then taken up by some junior schoolteachers in conjunction with the Mindfulness research centre at Bangor University and developed into a program paws.b aimed at 7-10 year olds. Given the target age range the classes can be delivered twice a week for 30 minutes each for a total of 12 lessons, or 6 lessons of around 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The awareness and research of the potential for mindfulness is growing very rapidly. A UK Parliamentary Committee published a report in 2015 called 'Mindful Nation' which looked at the potential use of mindfulness in schools, healthcare, business and criminal justice system and found strong evidence to recommend the UK government to look further into the practice.

In business mindfulness is used to promote focus, creativity and clarity of thought together with compassion. Many business leaders use the practice to create 'space to think and lead'. Mindfulness has featured in the last 2 World Economic Forums and is used by many corporates including Google, Intel, Aetna, General Mills, Apple, KPMG and many financial firms. A study of mindfulness at London Transport also demonstrated a reduction of 17% in sick leave after the program was introduced for staff, and Aetna insurance have estimated a dollar return value at 1:11.

Presenteeism is also a huge burden on business, and as we know that people's attention wanders at least 50% of the time anything that can help focus a wandering attention is potentially very valuable!

About Dr Nick:

I have been practicing mindfulness personally for over 10 years and been very fortunate to have been taught to teach all of these programs by some of the world's leading authorities including Professor Mark Williams and the creators of the dot b and paws.b courses. I have taught mindfulness extensively in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Thailand and recently became an accredited teacher trainer for The Mindfulness in Schools Project UK.

I teach groups, individuals, medical practitioners, families and businesses and the courses can be adapted into 'taster' sessions, day workshops or weekend retreats. I also use mindfulness extensively in my clinical practice working with patients with chronic pain, bodily distress disorder, anxiety and depression and many other chronic mental and physical health problems. This can be done in the clinic or I have also taught people successfully using Skype, Face-time and video conferencing programs.

I have also just released an online course for recovery in from chronic pain and will be releasing other online courses and resources over the next 12 months.