What Happens In Mindful Therapy?

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated June 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What is mindfulness based therapyMindfulness therapy is an approach that involves helping clients ground themselves through relaxation, focus, and nervous system control. Mindful therapy has its groundings in ancient philosophies and the work of well-known and renowned psychologists. When deciding on a form of therapy, understanding how mindful therapy works can help you make an informed decision about your care. 

When was the last time you paid attention to your thoughts?
What is mindful therapy?
Mindfulness therapy, also known as "mindful therapy," is a type of counseling focused on mindful thinking, intent, and behavior.

During mindful therapy, counselors typically encourage clients to carefully monitor, observe, and consider their thoughts and bodily sensations. Often, practices in mindful therapy focus on the five senses. While mindfulness is based on older traditions, the roots of this counseling go back to Dr. Aaron Beck, a humanistic psychologist. 

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck was a practitioner who studied humanistic psychology and was one of the founders of cognitive psychology. Beck believed that people experienced emotional distress and challenges because they thought they were the root of their past problems. As a therapist, he encouraged his clients to look at themselves as agents in a vast system with room for error and solution.

Cognitive psychology is a type of metapsychology that claims how individuals think is one of the determinants of how they feel. Some critics may believe that a purely cognitive approach prevents clients of cognitive psychology from recognizing roles that they may play in their behaviors. However, Beck believed that techniques like meditation could help clients confront or correct unwanted thoughts or beliefs. He helped his clients become aware of thought patterns and develop strategies to change those patterns. 

What is mindfulness?

Many people experience racing thoughts or a frequent internal monologue. For many, this constant stream of thoughts may be automatically tuned out. For others, the thoughts might cause distress or continue when they try to sleep or focus on a task. 

The subconscious was often referred to as the "monkey mind" by psychologists like Beck. They believed that our thoughts when we're not paying attention might cause stress. Mindful thinking is a strategy to understand your thoughts, focus clearly on your cognitive processes, and feel grounded.  

Putting it into practice 

Mindfulness can be practiced in unique ways, depending on your preferences or goal. If you feel hesitant to sign up for individual therapy, you might consider joining groups or retreats to practice with others. Many counselors teach and practice mindfulness in their daily lives. You can also consider the following exercises.

If you attend therapy, your therapist can guide you through some practices and may also include soothing music and scents to help you enter a relaxed state. 


Lay down

One common practice involves lying down. Lie on your back with your palms facing up. Ensure you have a comfortable pillow, mattress, or surface underneath you.

Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and try to clear your head. If you're struggling to do so, focus on a mental image, a repetitive word, your breath, or sensations in your body. When a thought distracts you, observe it, note that it exists, and send it on its way. Continue to do so if more thoughts pop up during your practice, refocusing your attention on being observant towards your thoughts. 


You can mindfully breathe by focusing on your breath for a few seconds or more. This practice might be used to calm anxiety or reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and panic. Follow these steps: 

  • Breathe in for five seconds. 
  • Hold your breath for four seconds. 
  • Breathe out for five seconds.
  • Hold your breath for four seconds. 
  • Repeat this exercise. 

This exercise is commonly referred to as "box breathing" and can be modified in a way that feels beneficial. If you find five seconds too short, change it to eight. 


Mindful running is a practice you can do at home while incorporating beneficial exercise into your routine. Consider doing the following during a half-hour long jog: 

  • Notice five green objects.
  • Try to spot at least three community workers, such as a police officer or a mailman. 
  • Try to notice three different scenes. For example, you might see kids playing, a parent talking to their child, or a couple on a date. 
  • During your entire run, note five aspects of your environment that you find beautiful. Do you like how the trees look in spring? The flowers near your home? 

Focusing on your environment can bring you out of your thoughts and into your present moment, allowing you to receive exercise mindfully.  

Mindful eating 

Mindful eating can involve focusing on the various sensations that occur while you eat. Instead of eating to get full, choose one type of food, and perform the following exercises: 

  1. Look at your food and describe its color, shape, and visual texture.
  2. Put a small piece of the food in your mouth, but don't swallow it.
  3. Note the taste of it in your mouth without chewing.
  4. Chew a small bite and see how its taste or texture changes.
  5. Note how it feels on your tongue. 
  6. Finally, swallow your bite and see if any taste lingers in your mouth. 

Mindful eating can also help you reduce your eating speed if you eat fast. 

How often should you practice mindfulness? 

Studies have found that even ten minutes a day of mindfulness or meditation can have mental health benefits. You can also incorporate your these practices into your daily routine, like the running and eating examples from above. In addition, you can do mindfulness on the go by practicing it while you walk, during therapy, or at your desk at work. 

You can also try mindful therapy if you're struggling. Mindful therapy allows you to get expert guidance, practice new exercises, and receive worksheets or assignments to try at home. You can also discuss any symptoms, worries, or concerns in your daily life. You do not need to be diagnosed with or experiencing symptoms of a mental illness to see a provider. Those who have been diagnosed with cancer and are experiencing anxiety or depression may also benefit from mindfulness therapy for cancer patients

Getty/Luis Alvarez
When was the last time you paid attention to your thoughts?

Counseling options 

It's possible for individuals to practice mindful activities independently, with an instructor, with family, or in a group. However, you may find the most benefits when you schedule a meeting with a counselor. You can attend mindful therapy like any other type of counseling. However, if you face barriers to in-person therapy like cost, distance, or availability, you can also partake in mindful therapy online. 

Studies have found that online mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially effective in addressing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and may be beneficial in reducing stress and improving overall quality of life. 

With an online platform like BetterHelp, you can typically get matched with a therapist within 24 to 48 hours after signing up for services. Services at BetterHelp also allow you to choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. 


Mindfulness is an ancient practice that provides various therapeutic benefits. Mindful therapy is often used in individual counseling to help clients stay grounded, focus on the present, and reduce unwanted thoughts. If you're interested in learning more about how this can create a positive mental state, consider reaching out to a mental health professional and scheduling an appointment for compassionate guidance and personalized instruction. 

If you don’t have time for traditional in-person counseling at this time, you might consider online therapy. With the mental health professionals at BetterHelp, you can participate in therapy from home via audio, video, or live chat. Take your first step toward improved mental health and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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