Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

When addressing substance abuse and addiction disorders, there are a number of clinical treatments that are incredibly effective.

In recent years, many addiction specialists have begun to implement alternative therapies into client treatment programs. One of the most popular approaches these days is Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and it works by healing trauma and reducing mental distress associated with addiction.

What is MBSR?

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a holistic therapy that is used to treat substance abuse, mental health disorders, and chronic pain.

It combines a variety of approaches, including traditional meditation, breathwork, yoga, and self-exploration. These are used to help people tap into their thoughts, deal with stress more effectively, reduce pain, improve focus, and approach life with a more positive outlook.

During MBSR training, people learn to listen to their thought patterns and recognize their behaviors, particularly in stressful situations. One of the fundamental teachings of MBSR is that people can’t always control their circumstances, but they can choose how they will respond to them. Over time, people learn how to stop reacting to distressing situations and instead, learn how to start responding with a clear understanding of their emotions in the present moment.

History of MBSR

MBSR was developed in the late 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Kabat-Zinn based the early MBSR framework on Buddhist philosophies but has since removed those teachings from the practice. Kabat-Zinn also founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society and the Stress Reduction Clinic, which are both based in Massachusetts.
gratitude in recovery

How Does MBSR Work?

MBSR is based on a formal eight-week course and day-long comprehensive sessions that were developed by Kabat-Zinn during his time at the University of Massachusetts.

Throughout the course, participants learn the foundations of mindfulness, practice meditation, strengthen their inner resiliency using various coping techniques, and increase awareness of their emotions.

MBSR is a time-intensive course. Each session lasts 2.5 hours on average, in addition to one all-day session that takes roughly eight hours. In every session, participants complete a short meditation, break out into group discussions, and practice exercises related to that week’s topic. Here are the topics covered in each week of the MBSR program:

  • Week one: In the first session, participants receive an overview of the MBSR course. The instructor explains the theory behind MBSR and how it should be applied in daily life. Participants begin to learn about mindful breathing and the body-scan method of meditation. The first session also focuses on understanding how to live in the present moment.
  • Week two: The second session is about examining perceptions, assumptions, and your perspective on the real world. Participants use the body-scan method to improve self-awareness and become more in tune with situational reactiveness. Members begin to address the challenges they face when it comes to triggers and learn about the short-term and long-term effects that stress can have on the body and mind.
  • Week three: During the third session, participants practice several mindfulness-based techniques, including hatha yoga, sitting meditation, and walking meditation. In group discussions, participants are encouraged to share their own experiences with these practices and how they are integrating mindfulness into their daily life.
  • Week four: In week four, participants learn how to concentrate their emotional reactions and expand their field of awareness. Week four is also when contributors learn about the mental and physical stress response and begin to develop effective coping mechanisms for addressing and responding to stressful situations.
  • Week five: In week five, participants are instructed to pay attention to their unhealthy patterns and situational responses that can be improved with mindful awareness. The week five session is also about learning how to be mindful at the moment when you experience an intense emotion, thought, or sensation.
  • Week six: Week six is a continuation of developing coping strategies where participators learn to improve their inner resilience through mindfulness-based techniques. Participants also learn the fundamentals of interpersonal mindfulness and are taught several methods to use when communication is challenging due to heightened emotions.
  • Week seven: In week seven, participants reinforce their focus on integrating mindfulness into their everyday life. This goes beyond meditation. Everyone is encouraged to practice mindfulness throughout his or her day when making decisions, when making judgments, and when self-reflecting. Part of this session is learning how to stay disciplined with a mindfulness practice.
  • Week eight: The final week of the MBSR program is a comprehensive review of the lessons taught. Participants learn about the resources available and the support systems that will help them grow as they cultivate their mindfulness practice moving forward.

MBSR for Addiction

MBSR has proven to be an effective treatment for people suffering from addiction and substance abuse disorders.

In many cases, individuals turns to drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma or unresolved mental health disorders. With MBSR, people can learn to deal with their emotions more productively, without using substances.

MBSR is different from many other therapeutic approaches because it is a regimented protocol, rather than a singular technique. MBSR is typically administered in a group setting, where participants go through the entire eight-week course together, led by a therapist or trained mental health professional. MBSR may be offered to clients in partial hospitalization programs as well as outpatient settings.


gratitude in recovery

Clients who go through MBSR during treatment are usually given homework to practice on their own. During the process, it’s important to meditate consistently, self-monitor symptoms, notice thought patterns, identify triggers, and use the coping mechanisms when cravings or negative feelings arise.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we welcome you to explore the treatment programs available at Nexus Recovery. Call a member of our recovery team today at (310) 881-9151.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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