In recent years, treatment providers have sought medication-free approaches to managing the disease of addiction. One popular approach centers around mindfulness: the conscious, nonjudgmental observation of one’s emotional state. Today, in the first study of its type, a new type of body awareness training (MABT) helps women to recover from drug addiction, according to promising new research from the University of Washington.
MABT: Key Findings
The training provided by researchers is called Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy (MABT). It combines mindfulness, manual, and psycho-educational approaches to teach introspection and self-care. Through this process, researchers hoped that participants would develop the ability to assess and process the sensory information relayed by their bodies.
It is important to note that the Mindful Awareness (MABT) therapy was taught in combination with regular substance use disorder treatment. One group of the 187 Seattle-area women received only standard SUD treatment, another received both treatments, and the last group received general education along with standard treatment (to account for any possible effects from the additional, individualized sessions).
Women were tested at the beginning of their treatment, then again at three, six, and twelve months. Their assessments included questions about substance use, distress, cravings, emotional regulation, mindfulness skills, and personal interoceptive awareness. Those who received the MABT treatment showed lasting improvement in these areas, and those in the other two groups did not.
“Those who received MABT relapsed less,” said Cynthia J. Price, lead author and professor in the UW School of Nursing. “By learning to attend to their bodies, they learned important skills for better self-care.”
What is Mindful Body Awareness Training?
Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy, abbreviated as MABT, is an empirically validated program centering around interoceptive awareness: the ability to perceive and appraise inner body sensations. Its ultimate goal is to promote self-awareness and emotional regulation.
MABT was initially created for clients who are disconnected from their bodies due to past pain or trauma. It has previously been used for those suffering from chronical medical issues, so it should be no surprise that this new study indicates possible success for those battling addiction. Touch is used to guide clients, who are trained individually. The training is largely experiential, although discussion and didactic sessions are included.
Once MABT is completed, clients should be able to:
- Recall and use the core therapeutic elements of each session
- Demonstrate an understanding of the MABT components
- Discuss the importance of one’s own ongoing mindfulness practice and self-awareness
- Describe the relationship between interoceptive awareness and mindfulness
How Does MABT Prevent Relapse?
One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is its disruption of nearly all bodily systems. In particular, the brain’s reward system and emotional range are severely affected. This results in an overall feeling of disconnection with one’s self. Many people suffering from addiction find themselves in a habit of numbing problematic emotions, rather than dealing with them, creating an overall stunted ability to process and work through challenges. Others may have suffered severe trauma before or during their addiction, meaning that they lack the ability to tune into their body’s needs. Cravings are particularly dangerous in these instances.
Mindfulness enables people to get in touch with their minds and bodies in new ways. MABT in particular caters to enhanced physical understanding – by setting aside time to identify feelings, urges, and points of tension, participants will understand what their bodies are trying to communicate. This allows them an advanced self-understanding beyond the principles of HALT: hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness.
This same principle of awareness benefits those participating in traditional mindfulness practice. Being able to objectively notice feelings – without judging them or letting them rule one’s life – is a crucial step in any recovery journey. By combining these two techniques, lasting sobriety may be more attainable than ever before.
Effective, Affordable Washington Addiction Treatment
Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers provide addiction treatment services along the entire continuum of care: from diagnosis to long-term solutions. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, there is hope. Call 1-800-231-4303 today to speak with one of our compassionate specialists.