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Psychologists’ Mindfulness

As the discipline of psychology and its empirical studies continue to develop and grow, one crucial area of research has been the integration of mindfulness into psychotherapy (Shapiro, 2009). In the last few decades, mindfulness has become an empirically based intervention in clinical and non-clinical populations. Thus, mindfulness as a psychological intervention has been integrated across a wide range of health care settings (Shapiro, 2009). Jon Kabat-Zinn is considered the first well-known physician who brought mindfulness into mainstream clinical practices (Childs, 2007). Harrer (2009) defined mindfulness as “paying attention to the here-and-now experience in an accepting and nonjudgmental way and at the same time being aware of aspects of the mind itself” (p. 235). Many studies emphasize the importance of practicing mindfulness for therapists themselves (Rothaupt & Morgan, 2007). However, few studies investigated how therapists practice mindfulness.

. Harrer (2009) emphasized mindfulness and that being a mindful therapist empowers the therapeutic relationship and even some psychological techniques such as hypnosis, which has significant clinical implications. Harrer (2009) argued that being a mindful therapist is useful for the therapeutic relationship as well as the therapeutic process. In addition, Bruce, Manber, Shapiro, and Cnstantino (2010) indicated preliminary evidence that training in Zen meditation improves a psychotherapist’s ability to help patients. Psychotherapists personal benefits from practicing mindfulness enhances their ability to attune to themselves and their patients. Hence, it decreases the severity of symptoms, fosters their well-being and, improves interpersonal relationships. (Bruce et al., 2010)

Schure, Christopher, and Suzanne Christopher (2008) examined the outcome of teaching some mindfulness practices to counseling graduate students. After taking the mindfulness course, participants reported positive physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and interpersonal changes. Furthermore, they reported a significant positive effect that enhanced their counseling skills. Moore (2008) conducted preliminary investigation into the use of brief mindfulness exercises as a means to providing an experiential introduction to mindfulness for clinical psychologists in training. Results indicated that participants acquired personal and professional benefits from engaging in brief mindfulness exercises. However, Moore (2008) suggested further research to examine the impact of frequency and duration of practicing mindfulness on gaining mindfulness skills.

Bien (2004) indicated that positive transformation in psychotherapy occurs slowly rather than immediately. According to Bien (2004), psychotherapy may be understood as a kind of mindfulness practice similar to working with Koan (an essential part of the history and traditions of Zen Buddhism; “Koan”, 2010), which is similar to a patient who presents a life dilemma without rational explanation. In order for psychotherapists to help patients get quantum change, they should be able to develop their own emotional and spiritual development as “cultivating their inner life” or being mindful (p. 499). In addition, psychotherapists should maintain a positive view of the fact that they are psychotherapists – a way of being. Therefore, they can have a positive expectation for their patients’ ability to change or improve. Bien (2004) suggested three ways for psychotherapists to cultivate their inner life, but he did not specify which type of mindfulness related to which outcome.

Rothaupt and Morgan (2007) conducted a qualitative research to explain how counselors and counselor educators incorporate mindfulness into their personal and professional lives. Participants revealed several overarching themes of staying focused on the present. Rothaupt and Morgan (2007) concluded that counselors who incorporate mindfulness in their practice should practice mindfulness themselves. They suggested possible questions for future research: Which mindfulness practices are related to which outcomes? Is there a critical level of practice or "living mindfully" that is necessary to reap the positive benefits and to have an impact on work with clients and trainees? What is the long-term effect of specific practices and a mindful professional life on critical professional issues such as clinical burnout, client or student success rates, and professional satisfaction?

According to the previous articles, the findings suggest that counselors who incorporate mindfulness in their therapeutic practices are encouraged to practice it themselves because practicing mindfulness does not merely benefit patients; it also benefits psychologists themselves as a manner of self-care and a tool of facilitating the therapeutic relationship. I believe selecting clinical psychologists who integrate mindfulness with psychotherapy can best provide in depth information about this phenomenon. My dissertation will answer the recommended former study questions by Rothaupt and Morgan (2007) to obtain in depth information of psychologists’ practice of mindfulness. Specifically, the long-term effects of practicing mindfulness and the relationship between specific forms of mindfulness and positive outcomes.

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