Buddhist Psychology as a Science of the Mind

Buddhist Psychology as a Science of the Mind [Episode 11 of the Intentional Clinician podcast]

In this episode Paul Krauss MA LPC interviews Sivie Suckerman, MA LMHC about Buddhist Psychology as a philosophy, a science of the mind, and its various clinical and life applications. Paul and Sivie discuss the universal teachings of Buddhist Psychology in a way that is accessible (and non-threatening) to anyone, no matter their background, culture, or religion (or non-religion). Sivie and Paul discuss the differences between “regular mindfulness” and utilizing mindfulness exercises along with Buddhist Psychology. True to the Intentional Clinician, there are many details about how utilizing the concepts from Buddhist Psychology in counseling can help with anxiety, depression, and more.

Sivie Suckerman MA LMHC received her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2007 and has practiced in community mental health, crisis services, school-based mental health, residential, and women’s health agencies. Currently, Sivie has a full time private practice in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle and has been in private practice for 3 and a half years. She is also a Certified Mindful Schools Instructor and Level II Little Flower Yoga Teacher. In addition, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting with an emphasis in Original Works from Cornish College of the Arts in 1998. Learn more here: http://www.siviesuckerman.com/

You can subscribe to the Intentional Clinician on itunes or though podbean.

Paul Krauss MA LPC practices counseling and is a counseling supervisor in Grand Rapids, MI. Paul has his private psychotherapy practice at Health for Life Grand Rapids, located on 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Check out his clinic which features himself and many gifted clinicians (each with their own specialty).  If you or someone you know is in need or just wants to give counseling a try– call Paul at 616-365-5530 (direct), or at the office 616-200-4433. Here is Paul’s email: PaulK@healthforlifegr.com

Learn more at www.paulkrausscounseling.com and www.counselingsupervisorgr.com  and www.grandrapidscounselor.com

Original music, used with permission:

“Shades of Currency” [Instrumental] from Archetypes by PAWL

“The Twin” from Archetypes by PAWL

“Moment in the Sun” from Archetypes by PAWL


Poetry Changes Everything

Poetry Changes Everything [Episode 10 of the Intentional Clinician]

In this episode, I interview Marcel “Fable” Price, the current Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We discuss poetry and the transformative act of writing and self-expression. We talk about how participating in a live poetry event can be helpful for people of all ages. Fable and I discuss our current “superconnected” internet culture and how overuse of the internet can lead to “disconnection” and how putting down your phone and picking up a pen and paper can help people struggling with mental illness. In addition, getting out of your domicile and going to an open mic or live poetry can be a way to sublimate your pain and difficulties into art. We discuss Fable’s journey from a difficult time in his life into his love for writing, poetry, spoken word and hip hop–and how poetry is now actually his job. All of this and much more is discussed in this episode:

Marcel “Fable” Price. Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids Michigan. Author of “Adrift in a Sea of M&M’s” Fable is a Bi-racial North American writer, teaching artist, community advocate, spoken word poet, and motivational speaker. Fable The Poet is highly noted for his work with the youth; spreading Mental Health Awareness using his own stories to consume the audience. “At times, we all feel fragile. We are paper boats entertaining the waves of life.” He is an official partner of Mental Health America and is known across the nation for crowd-interactive features that leave those attending enlightened and empowered. Buckle up, prepare to make a new friend, and enjoy the ride.




Follow the journey:





If you like the intentional clinician podcast, you can subscribe on itunes or through podbean.

Paul practices counseling in Grand Rapids, MI. Paul has his private practice at Health for Life Grand Rapids, located on 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. You can reach Paul at 616-365-5530 (direct), or at the office 616-200-4433. Here is Paul’s email: PaulK@healthforlifegr.com

Learn more at www.paulkrausscounseling.com and www.counselingsupervisorgr.com and www.grandrapidscounselor.com

Stay tuned for more intentional clinician episodes. Feel free to send in show topic requests. Thank you for listening. -Paul Krauss MA LPC

And if you are in the Grand Rapids area, check out Fable the Poet performing live!

Fabel the Poet of Grand Rapids, MI

7 Days of Self Care Challenge

7 Days of Self Care Challenge

by Nicole Vega, LMSW, CHC 

(A counselor in Grand Rapids, MI)

In a world of expectation, chaos, and struggle, it is vital that we find time to center ourselves and create a body that allows for inner and outer resilience. One of the best ways to allow for this is to learn practices that allow you to connect with who you are now, and who you desire to become.

To assist you on this journey, I have designed for you, what I call the 7 Day Self Care Challenge, or as I often refer to it as, the Love Yourself Challenge. In this challenge we are going to start with small daily practices, to leave you with a new set of tools that will help you to improve the quality of your life. These are things we can all do, even if you are incredibly busy with a career, raising a family, or both. Over these next 7 days you will try a new technique aimed at improving your overall well-being, so that by the end of this challenge you can determine what best suits your individual needs.


Day 1: Take 10 Minutes to Breathe

Science has come along way with what it can tell us about how quieting our mind and breathing can impact our health. This simple activity of breathing intentionally and being still can help to quiet the nervous system and rewire our brain. Some call this act of quietly breathing with intention, mediation. I prefer to call it “surrendering to your breath”. Many people see the act of surrender as giving up, however, I have learned as both a clinician and coach that just like vulnerability is key for creating positive changes, so is surrendering those thoughts and actions that keep you stuck on a path in which you feel lost.

Day One take 10 minutes to breathe


Day 2: Drink Half Your Bodyweight (in ounces) of Water

So why do I want you to drink water on this self-care journey? Well, because water is an incredibly simple and powerful way to nourish both our bodies and minds. We need water to survive, and many of us are running around drinking everything but water these days! To be mindfully aware of how much water you drink in a day, creates the habit of being aware of how you do other things. I often find clients believe they need to change 100 things before progress can be made, however, this is not the truth. All change comes about with choice, making at least once choice. to do something differently.

day two drink half your body weight in ounces


Day 3: Start Your Morning with a Nourishing Breakfast Smoothie

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason, and although I feel all meals are important. I find that starting your day out with a nutrient rich meal, sets the stage for you to make better choices throughout your day. I encourage my clients to start out with making breakfast both simple and nutritious, which is why I am a big fan of smoothies. When I am working with clients I will often state that their smoothies should consist of healthy fats, protein, and low sugar fruit, such as berries. My personal go-to shake in the morning is a combination of avocado, strawberries, unsweetened almond milk, water, and a plant based protein powder. This meal keeps my blood sugar balanced, cravings for junk low, and allows me to begin my day feeling fueled, rather than temporarily satisfied.

day 3 nourishing breakfast smoothie


Day 4: Find Movement You Enjoy and do it for a Minimum of 10 Minutes

As someone who has been on her own health journey for over 3 + years, and has supported many other individuals along the way. I can tell you that finding movement you enjoy is key to consistency in your workouts and improvement in your overall well-being. I also want to emphasize that the type of movement you enjoy may change as you age, and as you enter different seasons of life. I know this has been true for me. I used to be someone who enjoyed very intense workouts because I thought they would make me “skinny” or “get me to my ideal weight”. I have learned through much trial and error, however, that my body truly thrives with more gentle movement, such as yoga. I have also reached a healthy and ideal weight by surrendering to the type of movement that my body truly needed, rather than forcing it to do others.  

day 4 move for 10 minutes


Day 5: Go to bed by 9 p.m.

As someone who is without a doubt a “night owl”. I have always found myself going to bed later in the evening and sleeping in as late as I could, maybe even hitting snooze a few too many times. I had always decided this was just “who I was” and that I could not change it. I have learned, however, that for many of us, going to bed earlier can create a powerful shift in our energy, productivity, and well-being. While I know we cannot always go to bed early or even on time. I do think it is something to aspire to, at least a few times a week, in order to refuel and reset our bodies. Sleep is where our body naturally repairs itself, so it is vital for your overall health, no matter what your age. So for day 5 of this challenge I am asking that you power down early and pay attention to how you feel the following day.


Day 6: Give Back — Participate in an Act of Service

Now before you look at this and think “I don’t have time to volunteer”. I want to be clear this is not about a grand gesture, or devoting hours to a volunteer position. An act of service can be anything. It can be making a delicious meal for a family member, offering to babysit a friends children for an hour or two, picking up the groceries for your spouse, etc. When we help others, we feel more connected. It is this connection that allows for better psychological, emotional, and physical well-being.

day 6 give back- act of service


Day 7: Take an Epsom Salt Bath

The last task within this challenge is simple, yet so many people struggle to take the time to do it. The act of taking a warm relaxing bath, has many health benefits. So adding in another element such as epsom salt or essential oils can help boost an already beneficial act of self-care. Why do I specifically suggest epsom salt baths? I suggest these because they promote many benefits to the body, including: soothing sore muscles, boosting levels of magnesium in your body, and decreasing swelling, to name a few. So if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, this may end up being your favorite day of the challenge!

day 7 take an epsom salt bath


Lastly, whether you choose to participate in this challenge or not, it is important for you to know, that you are worth taking the time to care for. You are worth setting aside a few minute or hours a day, to give back to YOU. We live in a society where self-care can be seen as selfish. It is NOT selfish to have a desire to want to feel balanced and well cared for. People who care for themselves, can better care for others. You are worth it.

About the author: Nicole Vega is a fully licensed clinician and certified health coach. Nicole received her Master’s in Clinical Social Work in 2012 from Western Michigan University and became certified as a health coach in 2016. Her work is founded on the principle that individuals are the experts of their own lives, and therefore their own best healers. Nicole believes it is her role to establish a safe therapeutic space where she can assist her clients in focusing on their strengths and uncovering the tools needed to address what is causing them discomfort and stress in their lives; which may be manifesting as anxiety, depression, weight gain or other obstacles.

Contact her directly at http://healthforlifegr.com/experts/nicole-vega/   

Email: nicolev@healthforlifegr.com

Phone: 616-389-0291

nicole vega health coaching

Hypnosis: Frequently Asked Questions

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Hypnosis

by Stacey PreFontaine CMS-CHt, FIBH

Hypnosis is an ancient form of healing and transformation that goes back many centuries. A number of well-known historical figures have used hypnosis in order to accomplish great things. For example, Winston Churchill used self hypnosis daily during WW2 in order to stay mentally sharp and focused during long hours at work. Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Nikolai Tesla used self hypnosis each afternoon and credit self-induced trance with producing many of their best ideas. In the last few centuries, hypnosis has fallen to the wayside in part because depictions of hypnosis in movies and on TV portray a scary, trance-like state that renders people powerless. For these reasons, I’d like to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about hypnosis.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a natural albeit altered state of mind, a state of calm focus. Our brains move in and out of this state of alert focus several times a day without knowing it. For example, have you ever driven home from work and not remembered taking your highway exit? Or sat in front of a campfire, staring into the flames, feeling incredibly relaxed? These are examples of the hypnotic state.

Is hypnosis safe?

Yes. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state that our brains can use for beneficial purposes. There are a few instances where hypnosis would not be indicated for an individual but this is very uncommon. Examples include individuals who are acutely psychotic, a child under the age of five, or an individual who does not give their permission to participate in the process.

Can I be hypnotized?

Anyone with a normally functioning brain can be hypnotized. Some people may go deeper into trance than others, but depth of trance is not an indicator of success for change. A light trance is suitable for most clients.

frequently asked questions about hypnosis Grand Rapids, MI

What does hypnosis require?

Hypnosis requires 3 things:

  • 1. a desire for change
  • 2. permission to go into hypnosis (giving yourself permission)
  • 3. the ability to follow simple instructions If you can answer “yes” to the above requirements you will experience hypnosis.

Can I be made to do or say silly things while in hypnosis?

NO! Your session is all about YOU. During your appointment, you are aware at all times and will remember everything you choose to remember.

Is hypnosis mind control?

Absolutely not. Hypnosis occurs in your own mind and is a tool you use to create positive change for yourself. The hypnotherapist is merely a guide during the session.

What are the side effects of hypnosis?

Side effects include a deep sense of peaceful relaxation, lightened mood, improved sleep, and rapid positive change!

What can hypnosis be used for?

There are numerous applications for hypnosis and it is difficult to create a comprehensive list but here are some of the most common issues:

• stress management

• smoking cessation (one session!)

• weight management

• pain management

• motivation (for just about anything)

• improved sleep

• enhanced creativity

• accomplishing business or personal goals

• grief recovery

• trauma reversal

• phobia reduction or elimination

• increased focus

• improved memory

• increased confidence

If you are wondering if hypnosis could benefit you, call Stacey PreFontaine at 616.828.2153 and find out more. Stacey practices hypnotherapy at Health for Life Grand Rapids. 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

international board of hypnotherapy grand rapids, MI

Why I stopped making fun of yoga …

Why I stopped making fun of yoga …

by Jennifer Belmonte, LMSW, CHC

(licensed therapist in Grand Rapids, MI)

Truth be told, I am a former yoga-mocker. I could not comprehend how intentional body contortions and even the practice of stillness could possibly alter one’s physical health. After all, isn’t exercising about working up a sweat, increasing your heart rate, and being near collapse at its conclusion? At one point in my life, I was a cardio junkie…running, kickboxing, stepping, even spinning. What then, could possibly be the point of something low-impact, slow-paced, and well…seemingly downright boring. The whole notion of yoga was rather confusing to me. Silliness, actually.

A few years ago, my dear sister announced she was going to pursue certification in yoga instruction. I tried my best to be supportive of her perplexing vocation. She used fancy words like “shavasana” and “namaste.” Interestingly, I began to notice that people practicing yoga seemed more relaxed, more balanced…more grounded, if you will. Slowly, and I do mean slowly… I came to a realization… Do we not practice things that don’t come easily to us…such as riding a bike, cooking, or public speaking? Perhaps I needed to practice relaxing. Yes…practice relaxing!! I was well-acquainted with the concept of mindfulness (we’ll talk about this further in a later post), and its importance on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Yoga, of course, is a manifestation of mindfulness…both physically and mentally. I began attending a few classes. Yoga eventually no longer seemed a waste of time! In fact, I began to experience greater mental clarity as well as physical strength. I realized that ideally, a strong body and a strong mind are two sides of the same coin.

Moreover, the mainstream medical culture has begun to recognize the importance of consistently practicing relaxation…ideally, deep relaxation. As Dr. Edmund Bourne highlights in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, when we engage in this discipline, we experience a myriad of physiological changes including decrease in heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, and decrease in muscle tension. According to Dr. Bourne, other benefits of deep relaxation include increased energy and self-confidence, reduced insomnia and fatigue, and even an increased awareness of your emotions (as muscle tension is a significant barrier to emotional awareness).

The idea of practicing mindfulness or even deep relaxation may seem daunting at first. So, let’s start with intentional, every-day choices… making eye contact during a conversation, enjoying a cup of coffee (or a meal!) while seated, saying NO to things that do not nurture our bodies, our spirits, our healthy relationships. These are things that require intention and practice, especially in a culture, which glorifies busyness.

Part of my role at Health for Life GR is to help you connect the dots of your life…experience greater balance, find your voice, and be intentional in your relationships. After all, this journey called life is much more enjoyable that way.

You can see Jennifer Belmonte for counseling or health coaching, in addition she loves to teach and will be hosting many classes at Health for Life GR.

You can contact Jennifer Jennifer Belmonte LMSW, CHC directly616-920-0428 or jenb@healthforlifegr.com 

Jennifer Belmonte at Health for Life Grand Rapids

Interesting Psychology: The “Doorway Effect”

Interesting Psychology: The “Doorway Effect”

by Adam Nash MA LLPC, Grand Rapids, MI.

Have you ever been in your living room and thought “Man I really want a cookie.” Then you stand up and walk through to the doorway toward your kitchen and think “what did I come in here for…?” Or have you ever been walking out of a class with a hall pass in hand, on your way to talk to the counselor about your schedule and the second you walk through the door you think “why am I in the hall? Why was I leaving class?” Or have you ever been in an office and stood up to bring that coffee mug back to the kitchen and walked out of your office, and suddenly had no idea what you were doing–only to walk back to your office and set the mug back down.

If any of these aforementioned examples ring true to you, rest assured, you are not alone. In the field of Psychology, this phenomenon is known as the “doorway effect” and it was proven in a study by a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame (1). In the study, the participants first were asked to sit in front of a computer screen where they would pick up something (on the screen) then use the arrow keys on the computer to walk to a new destination; while walking the object that they had just picked up was not visible to them. It was determined that the participants who walked through imaginary doors had a much more difficult time remembering what they had picked up then those who walked to the new destination without going through any doors. Yet this study was completed utilizing only participants on computers.

The researchers at Notre Dame decided to see if this effect had any real-world efficacy in a real-world situation. In the second study, the participants were handed objects in real-time that they then placed into shoe boxes before walking to several new destinations. Sometimes they were asked to walk through a door way and sometimes they were asked to simply walk across a room. When they got to their destination they were quizzed on what they had in the box, the participants who walked through doorways had worse memory than those who walked the same distance, but did not walk through any doorways. Finally, the researchers tested another situation: if walking through a doorway and then back into the same surroundings that the participant began had affected their memory, while other participants were asked to walk the same distance in the same surroundings while making sure not to go through any doorways. Once again, the participants who walked through the doorways showed a memory loss greater than those who did not work through any doorways. The study concluded that people are more likely to forget when walking through doorways because the mind can only hold so many memories and, apparently, the part of the brain that deals with memory spontaneously decides that walking through a doorway is a good time to empty out some memories. Because a person’s brain can only hold so many memories it leaves behind the ones it decides are less important. And this is all happening at a subconscious level–which means that most people will not be aware of it, until they realize that they “forgot something.”

The next time you work through a doorway and forget why you entered that room, know that you are not the only one–it happens to everyone from time to time.  And the next time you are studying for a test and can’t remember the answer that you knew just a few minutes ago out in the hallway, don’t forget about the “doorway effect”. Every time you forget something while walking through a doorway, remember that forgetting is something that happens to everyone and that your brain is simply doing what it is programmed to do.

You can read the original study here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470218.2011.571267

For a complimentary 15 consultation for counseling with Adam Nash, MA LLPC

call 616-200-4433 or directly 616-676-7081

or email him at adamn@healthforlifegr.com 

adam nash helping teens with anger, depression, and anxiety

Come On, Get Happy! (with hypnosis)

Come On, Get Happy!(with hypnosis)

by Stacey Jekel PreFontaine CMS-CHt, FIBH

Imagine for a moment, going through life as your happiest, most contented self. Imagine that even when you experience struggles, disappointment, or loss, there is a firm resilience inside of you that keeps you on course and returns you to a state of well-being. Hypnosis has been shown to be an effective modality for increasing every day happiness. Through hypnosis, positive inner states like peace, contentment, and self-confidence are discovered or reinforced, creating a more balanced, happier life experience.

Even with past trauma, even with current struggles, you can reduce or eliminate the negative thought cycles that steal your everyday happiness. With just a few minutes of self-hypnosis each day you can shift your mind’s focus to recognizing and appreciating the everyday things, little things that are good in your life. Once this pattern of positive recognition is set, your brain begins to automatically search for, find, and experience more happiness. Happy moments become happy days which become a happy life!

During your hypnotherapy session, you will learn the simplest self-hypnosis tools that allow you to naturally grow more joy, and gratitude within you, creating lasting positive change. Learn these skills in private sessions or put a small group of people together and learn with friends. Special group rates will apply with a minimum of 3 people.

Contact Stacey PreFontaine at Health for Life GR for more information.

Learn more about Stacey here.

You can call her directly here: 616.828.2153

Email here: sjphypno@gmail.com

or call our main line: 616.200.4433 at Health for Life GR


Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

If you are looking for mindfulness based cognitive therapy in Grand Rapids, MI– Paul Krauss MA LPC can help.

Give Paul a call at 616-365-5530 for a complimentary 15 minute consultation or email paulk@healthforlifegr.com

While “mindfulness” is all the rage these days, without help from a clinically informed practitioner, it may not have the therapeutic effect intended. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy have been both clinically proven to help reduce both depression and anxiety in people.

What is MBCT and how was it developed?

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a rather recent development in the treatment of mental illness, originally designed to reduce relapse in individuals with persistent major depression (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004). In its intended form, MBCT is a group skills-training program taught in intervals specified by a manual, preferably by a therapist who has had their own extensive practice with MBCT and/or mindfulness in general (Helen & Teasdale, 2004; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). MBCT was specifically intended to address an individual’s vulnerability between major depression episodes, though it has recently been utilized to treat anxiety and bipolar disorder (Williams, Russell, & Russell, 2008; Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, & Tull, 2004).

As a psychoeducational skills-training group (part group therapy, part mindfulness practice, and part teaching/coaching), MBCT is designed for patients in remission from the acute symptoms of major depression (Helen & Teasdale, 2004). The groups teach patients to increase their awareness of their thoughts, feeling and bodily sensations, while also relating to them differently. The most popular example of patients’ change of perspective in relation to their thoughts and feelings, in the literature, is for patients to treat them as “passing events in the mind” rather than identifying them or treating them as the absolute reality of their life situation (Williams, Russell, and Russell, 2008; Helen & Teasdale, 2004; Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale 2002).

Zindel V. Segal, John D. Teasdale, and J. Mark G. Williams (2002) originally had set out to develop some sort of cognitive therapy maintenance treatment for people who had experienced a major depressive episode and were in remission. After Dr. Marsha Linehan introduced her use of “mindfulness” to the trio, as part of her successful treatment called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, they began to investigate the technique. Segal, Teasdale, and Williams then traveled to the University of Massachusetts, where Dr. John Kabat-Zinn had been treating patients, suffering from chronic illnesses, with a program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) since the 1970s (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). The methods of mindfulness, as developed by Kabat-Zinn, urges a patient to “decenter” or observe thoughts and feelings from a wider perspective as a method to steer away from “automatic” mental reactions to stress (reactions, that often inhibit logical and effective problem-solving) (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness techniques themselves were originally derived from Buddhism’s mindfulness meditation (Carey, 2008). Following Segal, Teasdale, and Williams study of and participation in Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR, the trio began to develop MBCT by bringing a cognitive therapy background to a mindfulness structure. And after the results of a randomized clinical test demonstrated that formerly depressed patients who went through a beta version of MBCT were significantly less likely to relapse into major depression again during the year that followed the program, Segal, Teasdale, and Williams secured the funding to make MBCT into a fully-fledged treatment program (a treatment program, which is now soaring in popularity) (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy: The Basics

As stated earlier, MBCT is essentially structured as skills-training group. Yet, the program is generally referred to as a class instead of a group, because the founders believe this is a better description of the learning environment. To begin, once a patient has met with the instructor individually for a preparation session, the patient then joins up to eleven other members for 8 weekly 2-hour sessions led by the instructor. Between sessions, members are given daily homework assignments, which generally consist of guided or unguided awareness and mindfulness exercises (Helen & Teasdale, 2004).

During the MBCT program, patients are taught to identify their own ruminative thinking and to free themselves from a “mode of mind” where negative thinking is dominant and instead to utilize mindfulness to achieve a state of “acceptance” and “being” (Coelho, Canter, & Ernst, 2007). Patients are taught to “decenter” themselves from negative thoughts or feelings, but not to avoid them, rather to observe these thoughts from a more objective distance. Of course, before the patients learn specific techniques, they must begin to understand and practice the core skill of MBCT: Mindfulness (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Interestingly enough, an instructor usually leads patients through the practice of guided awareness (or mindfulness) before explaining the technique at length, so patients have a nonbiased experience they can both reflect and build upon.

Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally” (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2002, p 77). When a person is practicing mindfulness they have means to identify when a switch in their thinking is needed (for example, negative thoughts about themselves arise), and also the tools to just be in the moment and not let depressing thoughts take over: acknowledge the thought as a thought and let it go (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Yet, MBCT is not in the practice of replacing or restructuring thoughts about the self (to become positive or happy) like many other traditional forms of cognitive and psychotherapy; instead, MBCT aims to provide the patient with freedom from ruminative thinking patterns and mental anguish. For as Segal, Teasdale, Williams noted, attempting to alter, fight, displace, or avoid negative thoughts often causes more mental turmoil and can lead to a relapse of depression. And when they achieve freedom through MBCT, the patient can more easily achieve their goals, such as becoming happier (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

The Program

The actual 8-week program that is MBCT is highly structured, and consists of a combination of teaching skills, brief group therapy, mindfulness exercises, group discussion and reflection, and assigning homework. Patients are given both homework and handouts to educate them further regarding the mindfulness skills they are learning during the sessions as well as their purposes. Because of the nature of the exercises, many of which come with suggested scripts, and the concepts being so heavily based on “being in the moment” rather than topics to be debated or discussed, the developers recommend that the instructor be a therapist who has been through a MBCT program or has an active and regular mindfulness practice or their own (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

Throughout the program MBCT teaches participants many exercises through which they can begin to practice mindfulness and eventually apply it to their personal lives. Starting with an awareness exercised dubbed “the raisin exercise” participants learn to bring their mind to the present moment and examine in detail the raisin by sight, touch, smell, taste, and how it feels inside the body (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Shortly after this exercise, participants learn the body-scan meditation. The instructor leads this exercise with the participants lying comfortably on the floor. The instructor speaks to the participants and instructs them to bring awareness to the different physical sensations of all parts and sections of the body, one by one. Moving from section to section slowly with an in-breath ushering in consciousness and focus on a section or part and the out breath moving the participant onward. The body scan meditation is a mindfulness exercise and part of the overall mindfulness program, which works by bringing participants awareness to different parts of the body (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

One of the other main practices of the MBCT program is mindfulness meditation, where participants sit in a comfortable position and focus on their breathing. When thoughts other than breathing-in and breathing-out come, one should acknowledge them and let them go. The goal is to sit for about 15 minutes and attain a more mindful perspective to bring back to daily activities. Other exercises and practices of MBCT include a 3-minute breathing space, some cognitive exercises (using mindfulness to reframe and “decenter” thoughts and utilize deliberate thinking), homework, and some light yoga where participants focus their awareness on subtle movements. Eventually participants will use mindfulness to be more deliberate and aware during everyday activities. Participants will also learn to identify negative thoughts, symptoms, and relapse signs– and cope with them (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

Just as the act of mindfulness meditation is related to Buddhist meditation, but has a different non-religious and clinical focus, the body scan meditation shares traits of progressive muscle relaxation. The body scan meditation is about the awareness of feelings and sensations in different parts and sections of the body, while progressive muscle relaxation is focused on physical relaxation. In progressive muscle relaxation, one tenses or flexes a different part or muscle of the body for 8 seconds on the inhaled breath and then exhales and releases the hold for 15 seconds, before moving on to the next part or muscle. While body scan meditation and progressive muscle relaxation follow similar sequences of focus on body parts, breathing, and both take place on the floor, progressive muscle relaxation emphasizes the physical relaxation of each muscle throughout the exercise and not the mindful awareness (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002; Richmond, 2008)

As a program, MBCT is extremely comprehensive in scope and should offer a patient, who actually devotes themselves to the homework and practice, a great opportunity to learn and really change some fundamental ways in which they interact with their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Most of all, MBCT provides an alternative or supplement to traditional therapy and pharmaceutical treatments, which could help prevent a patient from relapsing.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Depression

To understand more specifically how MBCT works and why several studies have deemed the psychoeducational therapeutic program an efficacious treatment, it is important to take a closer look at the workings of chronic major depression, the condition for which it was developed in the first place. While there has been success in treating major depressive disorder through therapy, pharmaceuticals, and electroconvulsive treatments, many of those treatments were focused on the acute symptoms and not the long-term reoccurring episodes. Until the early 1980s there were not many studies conducted on the rate of relapse for individuals suffering from major depression (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2002). Since the initial studies suggested an enormous need for a maintenance therapy or other means to prevent relapse, other studies have emerged: “at least 50% of patients who recover from an initial episode of depression will have at least one subsequent depressive episode, and those patients with a history of two or more past episodes will have a 70-80% likelihood of recurrence in their lives” (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2002, p 14).

According to the vulnerability model of depression studies, relapse and recurrence are more likely to occur after the initial depressive episode because “negative, self-critical, and hopeless thinking, during episode of major depression, lead[s] to changes at both cognitive and neuronal levels” (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004, p 48). So individuals who have recovered from one or several major depressive episodes are essentially changed from their experience with the disorder. As a result, low-lying dysphoric thoughts are likely to lead recovered individuals to worse states of mind (in both content and process) and eventually to another episode of major depression (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004; Williams, Russell, & Russell, 2008). These dysphoric thoughts are not necessarily the catalyst for sending a recovered individual to relapse, but they are just part of a larger picture, which involves how individuals deal with such thoughts.

Since mindfulness can be considered an “alternative cognitive mode” in which an individual learns to process thoughts and feelings differently than they have learned in the past, MBCT techniques have proven vital to preventing relapse in formerly depressed individuals by enabling them to identify dysphoric feelings/thoughts early-on and respond in a manner that effectively “nips [negative thinking patterns] in the bud” (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004). MBCT techniques differ from traditional cognitive therapy in many ways, but one major way is that in general cognitive therapy emphasizes therapeutic problem solving and fixing of issues through identifying, talking about, and processing negative thoughts or feelings, while MBCT empowers individuals to actually turn toward the negative feeling or thought and relate to that experience in the moment (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002).

There is mounting empirical evidence that MBCT is more effective in preventing an individual from relapsing into a depressive episode than treatment as usual. In two 2003 studies, MBCT was shown to halve recurrence rates of depression over treatment as usual (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004). More specifically, it was demonstrated that patients who had experienced three or more episodes of depression benefited the most, while patients with two or fewer episodes of depression in the MBCT did not differ from those receiving treatment as usual (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004). There are several theories that seem to account for this difference in the statistical effectiveness of MBCT in preventing recovered individuals from depressive relapse: First, automatic and habitual patterns of negative thinking become more intense and are more easily reactivated in an individual who has had more past depressive episodes (usually those with three or more episodes). Second, individuals who have two or less episodes of major depression, in general, come from a slightly different population (they were more likely to have later onset of depression, and the depression was more likely to be caused by negative life events) than those with three or more episodes, who may have developed more fixed maladaptive thinking traits (Coehlo, Canter, & Ernst, 2007).

MBCT has also been shown to reduce “overgeneral autobiographical memory”, which is a pattern of thought common in some depressive patients. Being a rather new method of treatment, MBCT will still require many years of study, including comparing its use versus pharmaceutical drugs and so on, before it will be widely accepted as a preferred treatment for depression (Coehlo, Canter, & Ernst, 2007). In general, MBCT is known to reduce study participants relapse into a depressive episode “within 12 months from 70% to 39%, increases the average time to relapse by at least 18 weeks, and decreases the Beck Depression Inventory score after treatment by nearly 5 points” (Williams, Russell, & Russell, 2008, p 529).

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Anxiety

While there has yet to be extensive research published evaluating the effects the MBCT program on individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders, it is important to note that the basic skills and methods of mindfulness appear to work well with combating the underlying symptoms of clinical anxiety (Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, & Tull, 2004). For instance, individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders often go to great lengths to avoid “objects or situations” that increase their symptoms, causing them superfluous difficulties. MBCT might be an effective treatment for individuals who exhibit the aforementioned behaviors, as it empowers individuals to turn toward their feelings (regarding objects or situations) and observe them from a “decentered” perspective, which could potentially cause symptom reduction (Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, and Tull, 2004).

Research has show that anxiety disorders are characterized by set patterns of anxious or over generalized response to stimuli by individuals. MBCT may be an effective treatment for such disordered responses as it emphasizes taking a new and more nuanced perspective of stimuli for a more adaptable and, hopefully, asymptomatic response (Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, & Tull, 2004). In fact, MBCT shares many similarities with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which has been utilized to successfully treat anxiety. ACT as well as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), used to treat individuals with a high risk of self-harm, both share traits with MBCT, as they primarily utilize “non-language based strategies” that seek to assist a patient with viewing and comprehending their problems in a fundamentally different way which allows the patient to cope with symptoms in a new and, hopefully, advantageous manner (Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, & Tull, 2004).


While labeled “probably efficacious” by the American Psychological Association, MBCT has received high praise from both therapists and patients (Helen & Teasdale, 2004). For instance, one reviewer suggested that “mindfulness may promote exposure to previously avoided internal experiences, lead to cognitive change or a change in attitude about one’s thoughts, increase self-observation and management, produce a state of relaxation, or increase acceptance” (Orsillo, Roemer, Lerner, & Tull, 2004, p 77). Another benefit of MBCT is that the program can provide a needed alternative or supplement to both therapy and pharmaceutical treatment for a patient. And unlike some traditional talk-therapies, MBCT’s class-like program empowers patients by teaching them skills and methods of dealing with thoughts and feelings that they can practice on their own without relying on treatment providers. In fact, because of its group format (using one instructor) and limited number of sessions, MBCT is rather cost effective and may be an excellent alternative treatment for economically disadvantaged individuals, who may not have comprehensive insurance or cannot afford traditional therapy or even medications (Coehlo, Canter, & Ernst, 2007). Another aspect of diversity other than the economic class system, is that MBCT is known to be associated with Buddhist meditation, which for a person of any culture (religious or not) could be cause for some skepticism; however with proper promotion and culturally-sensitive education, hesitant individuals from any culture will hopefully come to understand that MBCT is a non-sectarian, non-religious psychological treatment developed exclusively for dealing with mental disorders.

MBCT is a relatively new treatment, developed specifically for treating patients who are in recovery from depression, yet its usefulness is still in the beginning stages of being empirically documented. Part of a so-called “third-phase” of treatments which, along with ACT and DBT, build upon the traditional understandings and structures of behavioral and cognitive therapies with new techniques such as “mindfulness, acceptance, relationship, and spirituality” as well as MBSR to advance the field of therapy (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004, p 45). Already, MBCT has proven to significantly reduce relapse in individuals recovering from depression by fifty percent over those who are engaged in treatment as usual (Segal, Teasdale, & Williams, 2004). Future studies will inevitably study MBCT as an alternative to pharmaceuticals as well as a treatment for other types of mental illness besides depression, which could lead to even greater acceptance and use of the program in the years to come (Williams, Russell, & Russell, 2008).



Carey, B. (2008, May 27). Lotus therapy. The New York Times.

Coelho, H. F., Canter, P. H., & Ernst, E. (2007). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy:     Evaluating current evidence and informing future research. Journal of Consulting             Psychology, 75, 1000-1005.

Helen, M. S., & Teasdale, J. D. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression:        Replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects. Journal of             Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 31-40.

Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L., Lerner, J. B., & Tull, M. T. (2004). Acceptance, mindfulness, and       cognitive-behavioral therapy: Comparisons, contrasts, and application to anxiety. In S. C.           Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding             the cognitive-behavioral tradition (pp. 67-91). New York: The Guilford Press.

Richmond, R. L. (2008) A Guide to psychology and its practice: Progressive muscle relaxation.     Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.guidetopsychology.com/pmr.htm

Segal, Z. V., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. G. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: Theoretical rationale and empirical status. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M.        Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral   tradition (pp. 45-65). New York: The Guilford Press.

Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy    for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: The Guilford Press.

Williams, J. M. G., Russell, I., & Russell, D. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy:          Futher             issues in current evidence and research. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 76,           524-529.

This article was written by Paul Krauss MA LPC

Wisdom and Philosophy in Recovery from Addiction

The Intentional Clinician Podcast with Paul Krauss MA LPC

In part 2 of my conversation with Bryon Sabatino, we discuss addiction, honesty, motivation, stages of change, counseling, and how mindfulness and philosophy can help in recovery. Bryon and Paul discuss hope for those suffering from addictions and their families. Bryon and Paul discuss Bryon’s book “Inner Work” and the philosophy contained with it. This philosophy informs Bryon and Paul’s counseling practices.

Bryon has been running and intensive outpatient therapy group in Tempe, AZ called “Inner Work Counseling” for years and has helped so many struggling with addictions to substances.  Bryon Sabatino is the owner and founder of Inner Work Counseling in Tempe, AZ. Check out his website here.

Paul Krauss MA LPC practices counseling in Grand Rapids, MI. Paul has his private practice at Health for Life Grand Rapids, located on 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Check out his clinic which features himself and several fantastic clinicians http://www.healthforlifegr.com/  If you or someone you know is in need or just wants to give counseling a try– call Paul at 616-365-5530 (direct), or at the office 616-200-4433. Here is Paul’s email: PaulK@healthforlifegr.com

Learn more at www.paulkrausscounseling.comandwww.counselingsupervisorgr.com.

Stay tuned for more intentional clinician episodes. Feel free to send in show topic requests. Thank you for listening. -Paul Krauss MA LPC

Using Mindfulness and Philosophy for Recovery

The Intentional Clinician #6: Mindfulness, Recovery, & Philosophy with Bryon Sabatino Pt. 1. [Episode 6]

Paul Krauss MA LPC interviews Bryon Sabatino LPC LISAC–part one of the conversation discusses addiction, recovery, and utilizing mindfulness and philosophy through counseling.

In part 1 of my conversation with Bryon Sabatino, we discuss Bryon’s intensive outpatient substance abuse group “Inner Work Counseling” located in Tempe, AZ. We discuss how people can recover through utilizing mindfulness skills and philosophical paradigms. Paul and Bryon provide examples and stories related to 

Paul Krauss MA LPC is a counselor located in Grand Rapids, MI. Paul works at Health for Life Grand Rapids, located on 781 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite C. Grand Rapids, MI 49546. You can learn more about Paul and his fellow clinicians here: http://www.healthforlifegr.com/  If you or someone you know is in need or just wants to give counseling a try– call Paul at 616-365-5530 (direct), or at the office 616-200-4433. Here is Paul’s email: PaulK@healthforlifegr.com

Paul and the Health for Life Grand Rapids team are working on “Ask a Counselor” events–if your organization wants a speaker for mental health or counseling or any other relevant cultural issue–contact Paul today.

You can learn more about Paul at www.paulkrausscounseling.com and www.counselingsupervisorgr.com.

You can download this podcast here or subscribe on itunes.

Thank you for listening to the Intentional Clinician Podcast. I am now offering long distance consulting as well as in person counseling. -Paul Krauss

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