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Co-running a day on mindfulness & hypnosis

A dozen Powerpoint slides I put together for this seminar are downloadable by clicking here. 

A couple of days ago, a friend and I ran a day seminar on "Mindfulness & hypnosis" for the Scottish Branch of the British Society of Medical & Dental Hypnosis (BSMDH).  The learning objectives we'd proposed were for interested BSMDH members to: 1.) understand what ‘mindfulness' involves & how it relates to therapeutic approaches such as applied relaxation, compassionate mind training, therapeutic imagery and hypnosis.  2.) be introduced to the rapidly accumulating research evidence documenting the value of mindfulness approaches for a variety of indications including reduction of depressive relapse (NICE guideline), anxiety disorders, substance abuse, coping with cancer, IBS, chronic pain, emotion regulation, cognitive abilities, overall wellbeing, for school children & for therapists themselves.  3.) experience and discuss a variety of practical mindfulness exercises.  4.) have the opportunity to consider how mindfulness might integrate with participants' current interest in and use of hypnosis.

Our facilitator/lecturer "bio's" ran:  Stewart Mercer is a general practitioner and professor of primary care research at Glasgow University and leads a national research theme on multimorbidity with the Scottish School of Primary Care.  He is internationally known for his work on empathy and person-centred care. He trained in hypnosis with the BSMDH many years ago, and is also trained in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which he teaches to healthcare professionals in Scotland. He is co-director of Mindfulness Scotland, a recently established charity which supports the development and evaluation of mindfulness-based approaches.  James Hawkins is a medical doctor & accredited cognitive therapist in private practice in Edinburgh.  He has been a lecturer on the South of Scotland cognitive therapy postgraduate training course, taught seminars for GP's on depression treatment and served on a SIGN working party to develop anxiety treatment guidelines for Scottish doctors.  He has practised and taught hypnosis for the BSMDH, has meditated regularly for 40 years, and writes an evidence-based blog on stress, health & wellbeing.

The workshop started with a Welcome by Dr Judith Chapman, Scottish BSMDH Branch Chair.  I then encouraged participants to think about what they most hoped to learn, experience, clarify, ‘gain' from the day.  This started as a pair exercise and we then brainstormed these Hopes for the Day onto flip chart sheets which were stuck on the wall and referred back to throughout the seminar (including a final check that they had all been adequately addressed at the end of the day).  Stewart then gave an Introduction to Mindfulness - both for the longer term roots of these practices and for more recent developments in the West, including here in Scotland.  We also discussed how Mindfulness relates to other approaches like applied relaxation, compassionate mind training, therapeutic imagery and hypnosis.  I then provided a quick overview of the burgeoning Mindfulness research literature - including where there is good evidence of likely benefit for patients and practitioners alike.  Everyone then stopped for a well-earned tea/coffee break.

After we reconvened we made time to review what we'd covered and responded to questions.  Stewart then spoke about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) & Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  He gave details of these mainstream ways of teaching Mindfulness and lead participants through some experiential exercises.  After this we stopped for lunch, but decided to use the first course of the lunch as a silent mindfulness exercise and only began speaking at the second course.  I really enjoyed this and I think so did many other seminar participants. 

After lunch I spoke about other mindfulness-linked therapeutic approaches including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT).  I talked about the ACT "Bus Driver Metaphor" and introduced a tackling-post-lunch-sleepiness Pair Walking Exercise.  It gave me a chance to do a little name-dropping as well!  I was introduced to this pair walking exercise at a lecture given by Steve Hayes (of ACT fame) a good few years ago.  I happened to be sitting with John Teasdale (of MBCT fame) and had the delightful experience of pairing up with John and acting as his Distracting Mind.  So the exercise involves going on a walk with someone else.  Initially one person takes the part of simply walking silently while practising being present & mindful, while the other walks alongside role-playing the meditative walker's distracting thoughts.  In the distractor role one can have a lot of fun being an irritating imp of intrusive thoughts.  After a few minutes one swaps roles and then finally one debriefs discussing what one has experienced & learned.  Today it was great doing this exercise with my co-presenter Stewart.

After checking back in as a full group for questions and discussion, Stewart introduced further MBSR/MBCT meditation exercises.  We spoke then about training opportunities in these methods.  We looked back too at the Hopes for the Day sheets to make sure participants felt we had addressed their key areas of interest.  I finished up by getting everyone to spend a little time writing down what had been most important for them personally & professionally about the day.  I asked them to think what they now wanted to do about this.  They then paired up to share what had emerged and I encouraged them to make specific intentions for the weeks ahead and exchange email addresses so they could let each other know what progress they'd made with these intentions.  It was a good day and seemed to be much appreciated. 

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