22 May Mindfulness: A Powerful Recovery and Mental Health Practice
Stephanie Pratico, LMHC, MT-BC, leads the popular mindfulness group at AdCare Outpatient in Worcester, Massachusetts. The group continues to attract new patients and for good reason. “Mindfulness is especially helpful for people struggling with substances who tend to act on whims, and be swept up by impulse,” says Stephanie. “Overtime, people with substance use disorder float away from the here and now – away from their values, families, and priorities.” Practicing mindfulness helps bring us back to the present moment and become more present in a culture that glorifies multi-tasking, technology, and constant excitement.
Recognizing the value and benefits of mindfulness for her patients, Stephanie started a mind-body-spirit track that offers Mindfulness, as well as Spirituality and Whole Person Wellness groups. Such groups expose interested patients to “alternative” approaches that help heal the disease of addiction, which is often referred to as a disease of disconnection. Practicing mindfulness forces us to slow down and can be added at any point in a person’s recovery. “Many of my patients feel that they are incapable of slowing down,” says Stephanie. “I tell them to start by slowing down for a minute and focusing on their breathing, thoughts, and how they are feeling.”
Developing physical wellness is another great recovery practice that can go hand-in-hand with mindfulness. As an example, Stephanie suggests her patients take a walk each day and try to see something different as a way to enhance their mindfulness and physical health.
Creating and repeating a mantra or positive affirmation such as “I am healing” or “I can persevere” is a mindfulness practice, as is goal-setting. Stephanie encourages participants to ask themselves, “What is the best life I want to live and how do I get myself there?” Being part of a mindfulness recovery group is helpful as well because members are connected with others going through the same process of change and transformation.
Repairing the disconnection caused by substance use is long-term work. Mindfulness helps individuals in recovery identify triggers, set goals, and change behaviors. It’s is a powerful practice that can help individuals get and stay in tune with themselves, their surroundings, and their own life path.
Says Stephanie, “I’ve seen people pull themselves out of some very dark places by incorporating mindfulness into their treatment – people who have been homeless, for example, get back their careers and turn their lives around.”