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Walking in Glen Affric: reflection & “stress management” courses (sixth post)

Home.  Catching up.  Acting on some of the thinking/planning I did while I was away.  The most obvious new initiative has been reviewing my intention to train in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  When I got back from walking in the Sahara at the end of March, I wrote in a blog posting    

"And I want to follow up mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) more.  I've been teaching forms of inner focus since the 1970's.  I am however drawn to pretty much anything that has a better evidence base supporting its helpfulness in relieving suffering.  MBCT is currently the meditation variant that has the best - and increasing - support." 

I applied for various forms of training.  However coming back from the Glen Affric adventure, I reversed this decision and wrote cancelling an MBCT course I'd booked saying:

"I'm sorry to mess you about but, after a lot of thought, I've decided not to come to the ... MBCT Retreat after all.  I quite understand if this means I will need to forfeit all or part of the course fees that I've paid.  I have also written to ... cancel my accommodation application.

I've known for some time that I wanted to "upgrade" the stress management/relaxation skills course that I've been teaching for many years.  I find the emerging research on MBCT exciting and encouraging - hence my initial decision to apply for the training retreat.  However I've been away on a (walking) retreat again myself and this gave me time to think/feel more fully into the course upgrade I want to provide for patients. 

I realised the obvious point that the patient population I'm working with is much broader than just people with recurrent depression.  Although MBCT/MBSR have been used for people suffering from diverse disorders, it is the results achieved in reducing depressive relapse that I find particularly impressive.  However I want to provide a training that is evidence-based and applicable to a wider group of people struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, relationship difficulties, poor health habits and general unhappiness.  The emerging MBCT and MBSR literature is relevant here, but so too is a wealth of other research - for example the recent meta-analysis of relaxation therapies for anxiety disorders, the encouraging results being achieved teaching acceptance and values-based action for chronic pain patients, and the recent startling outcomes reported using mixed methods group interventions for both cancer patients and people with heart disease.

I've decided to bite the bullet and develop a group "life skills" training course for the patient population I see from the ground up - using inspiration from a wide range of successful interventions - rather than simply take an already developed training course "off the shelf"."

I feel excited about this.  I plan to run a new group course in the autumn for this broader client population.  The working title is "Key skills training for stress, health & wellbeing".  An important aspect of the course will be a relaxation & mindfulness exercise, but within the broader overview:

four aspects of helpful inner focus

This chart and other handouts relevant to wellbeing & calming skills are downloadable by clicking here.  Probable ingredients for the course - besides the relaxation/mindfulness exercise - will be work on improving health behaviours using implementation intentions, a focus on relationships & compassionate mind training, and exploring the relevance of values-based action, positive emotions, and self-determination.  I'm looking forward to it!


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