Mindfulness is defined as “the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions – in the present moment – without judging or criticising yourself or your experience” (McKay, Wood, & Brantley, 2007; p64).
Mindfulness skills help you to focus on one thing at a time in the present moment, and by doing this you are better able to control and soothe overwhelming emotions.
Mindfulness helps you to identify and separate judgemental thoughts from your experiences. Judgemental thoughts often fuel overwhelming emotions.
DBT teaches mindfulness skills through a set of exercises, with each building upon the previous exercise. They should therefore, ideally, be taught and practiced in the order presented. Taken together these exercises teach four core skills of: (i) focusing more fully on the present moment; (ii) recognising and focusing on thoughts, emotions and physical sensations; (iii) focusing on the moment to moment stream of awareness, and (iv) separating thoughts from emotions and physical sensations.
As with CBT skills training the technique elements of instruction, guided practice, feedback and independent practice are central.
Providing initial instruction and practicing all of the exercises require the client to sit comfortably in a quiet room with no distractions. Independent practice requires the client to have a written copy or a voice recording of instructions to follow.
The Mindfulness elements are:
G4i. Focusing on the present moment
G4ii. Recognising and focusing on thoughts, emotions and physical sensations
Only the basic mindfulness skills are covered here (see Chapter 3 of McKay et al, 2007).