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Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention

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Research

Title

Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention

This project examined the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques in assisting people recovering from alcohol use disorders. Their research focused on Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), a program that integrates core aspects of relapse prevention with practices adapted from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Research has shown that an impaired ability to self-regulate in response to stress contributes to the development of alcohol dependence and to relapse among those recovering from alcohol use disorders. MBRP is known to improve self-regulation of responses to stress increasing acceptance and tolerance of negative emotions, thoughts and physical states, and by reducing the need to alleviate associated discomfort through alcohol use. While research indicates that MBRP is effective in reducing substance use relapse, the researchers wanted to learn more about what type of individual is most likely to benefit from MBRP – that is, what psychological characteristics (e.g., heart rate variability index, trait mindfulness, substance use, anxiety, and depression) would be more likely to be associated with short- and long-term positive outcomes and adherence to mindfulness practice. This knowledge will enable more efficient and effective delivery of MBRP. When stressful cues are encountered, the central and autonomic nervous systems work together to coordinate the self-regulation of attention, cognition, and emotion. High frequency heart rate variability (HRV) is an index of emotion regulation and reflects parasympathetic activation of the autonomic nervous system and the body's ability to exert cognitive control over attention and emotional responding. Higher HRV is associated with greater emotional and behavioral flexibility, as well as better mental and physical health outcomes. Among alcohol dependent individuals, mindfulness training has been found to increase HRV and lower subjective levels of psychological distress in response to stressful cues in the short-term. The researchers collected psychological and physiological data for participants over a period of several months. Participants also complete an MBRP booster session and phone survey at three- and six-months follow-up, respectively. The researchers compared their findings with results from a treatment-as-usual group. Their findings included lower rates of alcohol relapse, greater decreases in cravings, and more effective self-coping and regulation of negative emotions in the MBRP group. Characteristics such as readiness to change, perceived stress, state mindfulness, and self-efficacy showed greater associations with successful outcomes at post-treatment.

Key People: J. Kim Penberthy, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences; Andrea Konig; Christopher J. Gioia.