Mindfulness, The Power of the Present

Mindfulness, The Power of the Present


We’ve all been there: a client sits in the chair, regaling us with the events, which occurred since our last meeting. As we listen to our client, our mind begins to shift towards our next appointment, or perhaps a chart that remains unfinished, or even a phone call that needs to be made before the end of the day. Without realizing it, we’ve lost our focus on the client sitting in front of us and given it to the numerous clients we’ll see later today or even this week.

            Scenarios like the one above highlight the importance of utilizing a mindful approach in our therapeutic practice. It benefits not only our work as a therapist, but our clients as well. When we are mindful, we stay in the moment with our client as he or she processes difficult emotions and develops greater insight into an issue. Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to the present, the here and now, without passing judgment and in doing so, allows us to free ourselves from thoughts that might otherwise cloud our sessions. “Did I say the right thing?” “I wonder if my next appointment will be on time.” “I need to finish that case note before tomorrow.”

            In practicing mindfulness in the presence of our clients, we also become a teacher to our clients of how mindfulness can benefit their own therapeutic practice. Clients who may suffer from depression, anxiety, or find fault in their current partner or spouse may find a welcome reprieve from these negative or intrusive thoughts if they are taught how to slow down their thinking and let go of judgment. “He did that on purpose!” “She knows I hate when she’s late.” are the type of thoughts that can hurt a relationship more than help it and if we can teach our clients how to adjust their ways of thinking, we’ve added one more tool to their coping strategy toolbox.

            It may be easy to think that adopting a mindfulness-based practice will require hours of extra study and changing of your current theoretical orientation. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are just a few of the newer therapeutic approaches that highlight staying the present moment, accepting feelings as they are right now, and realizing the natural duality of life (humans are inherently, both good and bad). Before trying to incorporate techniques from each of these varied approaches, think of one simple phrase that I use with my adolescent clients who have difficulty staying here: “Feet on the ground” Simply thinking about our feet on the ground, our hands in our lap, and any other part of our body in its current position brings us back to the present moment and refocuses our attention out of our myriad of thoughts.

            The other thing that I do as a therapist to help teach mindfulness is to use the 5 senses grounding ourselves into the present moment.  Sometimes this practice can be simply called, Present Moment Awareness or PMA for short.  The great thing about being mindful is that we don’t have to “do” anything or can anywhere.  We use our environment and become aware.  By becoming aware first through our sense of sight.  Fixing your gaze on a object in the room or place you are in currently.  When we focus all our attention on that object when look at it curiously, looking at the texture, size and shape of the object.  If thoughts or judging the object i.e. pretty, ugly, or other thoughts creep in, just notice them and reshift or focus your attention on the object.  We go through all the senses this way, first we start out doing them 1 by 1 then we add a few together.  Sometimes it might be a little difficult if you don’t have something to taste, but that can always been planned.  One of my favorites is chocolate for sure!  What’s your favorite and how to do you incorporate mindfulness into your practice?