Many mindfulness meditation centers are studying what seems to have become the great hope of alternative medicine. But here in Salt Lake City, we may now have not only the newest, but one of the most exciting research centers.
While mindfulness practices have likely been around since the dawn of humanity, western therapists have only been advocating mindfulness techniques since the 1970s. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, and brought the practice to mainstream acceptance.
Dr Eric Garland, Ph.D., Social Work, began his own mindfulness meditation practice 23 years ago. He began using meditation to help his patients in 2003-4 and, for the past decade, he’s been studying it as a scientist. Last month, with $17 million in federal research grants, he started the new Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development located in the University of Utah’s College of Social Work.
Garland says he saw a need to bring together the multiple researchers on campus to study mindfulness and integrative health interventions and to make training available to clinicians in behavioral health therapies. In addition to advancing a program of rigorous scientific research, the clinic’s purpose is “to take what we learn and to train clinicians (social workers, psychologists, nurses and doctors) in the evidence-based practice of mindfulness and other integrative health interventions.”
“At some point we’ll expand to studying other integrative interventions.” Now, most of the initial focus is on Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement, or M.O.R.E., a therapy he’s developed which unites complementary aspects of mindfulness training, “third-wave” cognitive behavioral therapy and principals from positive psychology. In MORE, patients are taught mindfulness to improve self-control over automatic habits, reappraisal to reframe the meaning of stressful life events as a source of meaning, and savoring to increase positive emotions and the sense of reward from pleasant life experiences.”
Four studies are currently being conducted, one of which provides mindfulness training in several doctors’ offices in the Salt Lake Valley. Of all the projects, Garland thinks this one might make the biggest impact. “It’s really integrative medicine, providing mindfulness training in the place where patients are coming to get help for their chronic pain issue.”
Garland has found that the physicians are open to this work. They know their patients need some extra help to lead a more meaningful life and to function better in spite of their pain.
“The big picture is to help these modalities become part of standard medical care —move them out of the domain of alternative medicine and into the domain of standard health care practice to be delivered alongside traditional [allopathic] medical treatments.”
Read more on M.O.R.E. and C-MIIND at https://drericgarland.com
photo by Dave Titensor.