Not so many years ago, few respectable therapists would have incorporated anything like “mindfulness” or a so-called “mind-body” approach into their practice. Such words were redolent of New Agey, airy-fairy gobbledegook, not at all appropriate for the serious business of psychotherapy. The body was indeed a very useful physical means for conveying the mind to therapy, but once in session, everything below the neck might as well spend the next hour in Timbuktu for all its relevance to the therapeutic process.
How time flies. Today, as the popularity our webcast series Integrative Mental Health: How Mind-Body Techniques are Changing Talk Therapy attests, it’s an increasingly rare therapist who hasn’t at least considered bringing some form of a mind-body approach into his or her work. The menu of mind-body methods is virtually limitless—there are any number of mindfulness and body-awareness techniques, of course, but also nutritional and exercise counseling, breathing techniques, somatic focusing, yoga, energy therapies, guided imagery, movement, and probably ten thousand more. In fact, mind-body approaches are not only respectable; they are becoming de rigueur for the well-accoutered therapist.
If anybody deserves at least a chunk of the credit for this sea of change in psychotherapy, it is Jon Kabat Zinn, a widely acknowledged pioneer of mind-body medicine. It was Zinn, then a young molecular biologist with a passion for Zen Buddhism, who, in the early 70s, convinced the medical bigwigs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School that teaching meditation to chronic pain patients might relieve their suffering. It did, and the Stress Reduction Clinic at the UMass Medical School was born, eventually to grow into the world-famous and more imposingly titled Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. By the mid-1990s, Zinn had written two best-selling books—Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go, There You Are—about the power of meditation and mindfulness in helping people cope with stress, pain, and illness, as well as being the subject of a five-part Bill Moyers television series that, along with his books, helped turn him into a household name.
What really assured the success of Zinn’s approach was not so much his personal charisma (though that is considerable), but his ability to meld Western biological science with the meditative traditions of the East. Almost from the beginning, he and his colleagues began doing outcome studies and publishing research papers about the impact of meditation on chronic pain, anxiety, cancer, immune function, heart disease, trauma, and other illnesses. In his zeal for empirical bona fides, Zinn did as much as anybody on the planet to make meditation a scientifically valid approach to healthcare.
As a tribute to his pioneering contribution to what has become a primary force shaping the mental health field today, we have added a video of Zinn’s unforgettable 2005 Networker Symposium address, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and Our World to our current webcast Integrative Mental Health.
For a preview of what made the address such a crowd pleaser, check out one of its highlights below: A hilarious demonstration of just how unmindful and blind to what is literally happening right in front of our eyes most of us are.
Integrative Mental Health:
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*Jon Kabat Zinn bonus video and article will be available for Mind-Body purchasers on Tuesday, July 30th.