Addictions and Mindfulness Based Interventions

Mindfulness and Recovery

Mindfulness is often used in addiction treatment approaches in the form of mindfulness based relapse prevention. Understanding the reactive habits that lead to addiction and having skills to engage with the thoughts and emotions that lead to addiction has been shown to be of benefit in relapse prevention and the maintenance of recovery. Fear, depression, anxiety, trauma, boredom and lack of self confidence are often factors that go hand in hand with addiction.

The Impact of Addiction

Addictive behaviours can impact on life in many forms. Self confidence and having a sense of control over your own life can be greatly reduced due to addictive behaviours. Finding a lasting solution is often frustrating and can lead to increased feelings of failure. If you are struggling to maintain sobriety or have difficulties regulating time spent at work, regulating engagement in sexual activities or regulating time spent gaming then Mindfulness Based Therapies such as MiCBT (Mindfulness integrated Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) may be of help. MiCBT focuses on reducing reactive habits using acceptance and desensitisation to body sensations that lead to reactive habits.

The Research

In a study that examined the effects of MiCBT on the experience of addiction, participants who engaged in MiCBT exhibited greater improvement over time. This was evidenced in terms of greater decreases in scores on the Depression scale for participants who engaged in MiCBT than participants who received treatment as usual. Participants who took part in MiCBT also displayed lower levels of severity of dependence than those who received treatment as usual, across all time points. (Wickham, 2013)

One of the main benefits of MiCBT is that it uses a compassionate and kind approach to engaging with the behaviours such as addiction that cause suffering. In this way the cycle of self blame and shame which often leads to further addictive behaviours can be reworked with balance and compassion for self and others. The idea is that there is no failure just more learning needed. Having a daily practice as taught through MiCBT allows for a daily re-centering and recommitment to engage in self care and active loving kindness.

One of the big difficulties in changing addictions is the limiting belief that change is impossible. This can result in denial of a problem. Research is showing that it is possible to change qualities such as temperament and character that were once thought to be unchangeable. Mindfulness training can create new neural networks and lead to changes in the brain’s structure. (Lazar et al. 2005)



  • Wickham, Kylie (2013). The Effects of Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MiCBT) on the experience of Addiction. University of Tasmania, School of Psychology.
  • Penberthy, Kim & Konig, Andrea & Gioia, Christopher & M. Rodríguez, Vivian & A. Starr, John & Meese, William & Worthington-Stoneman, Danielle & Kersting, Karen & Natanya, Eva. (2013). Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention: History, Mechanisms of Action, and Effects. Mindfulness. 6. 10.1007/s12671-013-0239-1.
  • Lazar, Sara & Kerr, Catherine & Wasserman, Rachel & Gray, Jeremy & N Greve, Douglas & Treadway, Michael & Mcgarvey, Metta & T Quinn, Brian & Dusek, Jeffery & Benson, Herbert & L Rauch, Scott & Moore, Christopher & Fischl, Bruce. (2005). Meditation Experience Is
  • Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness. Neuroreport. 16. 1893-7. 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19.