What Is Mindful Therapy? Techniques Inspired By Mindfulness

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated March 22, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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

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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.

Dr. Lorne Ladner mentions mindful therapy in an APA educational video on the treatment practice. In the video, Ladner talks about incorporating mindfulness into sessions and how it might benefit providers and clients. 

This type of counseling is inspired by Buddhist beliefs on connections between the body, mind, and spirit. Mindfulness and Buddhist practices also drew on techniques from meditation. However, mindfulness differs from meditation in that it can be practiced in many formats, whereas meditation is often connected to spirituality, religion, or specific practices, like silent closed-eye reflection. 

Mindfulness therapy encourages clients to carefully monitor, observe, and consider their thoughts and bodily sensations. Often, practices in mindfulness therapy focus on the five senses. While mindfulness is based on older traditions, the roots of mindfulness principles in therapy go back to the works of Dr. Aaron Beck, a humanistic psychologist who studied mindfulness in therapy. 

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Aaron Beck And Therapy

Aaron Beck was a practitioner who studied humanistic psychology and was one of the founders of cognitive psychology. Humanistic therapy arose in the mid-20th century as a response to the more deterministic approaches of earlier popular psychologists like Freud and Pavlov. 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 the roles that they may play in their behaviors. However, Beck believed that techniques like meditation or mindfulness could help clients confront or correct unwanted thoughts or beliefs or remove them from the mind. He helped his clients become aware of their thought patterns and develop strategies to change them. 

What Is Mindfulness?

Many people experience racing thoughts or a frequent internal monologue. For many, the 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 mind 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. Mindfulness is a strategy to understand your thoughts, focus clearly on your cognitive processes, and feel grounded. It might also bring your focus back to a specific moment or occurrence if you often follow strings of thought around as you try to go about your day.  

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation have their roots in Buddhism. The term "monkey mind" is a Buddhist expression. Many Buddhist and related religious beliefs and philosophies emphasize how we might interoperate events in our lives and form relationships with those around us, including friends, family, and partners. 

However, you do not need to be a skilled Buddhist, religious, spiritual, or secular to practice mindfulness or meditation. Both practices promote health and personal growth. They might also help you focus, ground yourself after a stressful event, or feel in tune with your physical body. 

How To Practice Mindfulness  

Mindfulness can be practiced in unique ways, depending on your preferences or goal for meditation. If you're unsure how to start, you can consider joining mindfulness groups or retreats to practice mindfulness with others around you. Many therapists teach and practice mindfulness in their daily lives. You can also consider the following mindfulness exercises.

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

Lay-Down Mindfulness 

One common mindfulness practice involves lying down. Lie on your back with your palms facing the ceiling. Ensure you have a comfortable pillow, mattress, or surface underneath you. Since you will be meditating for at least five minutes, being uncomfortable might disrupt your practice. 

Once you are comfortable, close your eyes and try to clear your mind. If you're struggling to do so, focus on a mental image, a repetitive word, your breath, or the sensations in your body. Focus on that idea until another thought pops up. When a thought distracts you, observe it, note that it exists, and non-judgmentally send it on its way. Continue to do so if more thoughts pop up during your practice, refocusing your attention on mindfulness. 

Mindful Breathing

You can mindfully breathe by focusing on your breath for a few minutes or more. This practice might be used to calm anxiety or reduce the 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 the 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 

Mindful running is a practice you can do at home while incorporating beneficial exercise into your routine. Before your run, ensure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing for the temperature and location. If you like to run in the mornings, consider doing the following during a 30-minute jog: 

  • Notice five green objects within the first five minutes.

  • Within the first ten minutes, try to spot at least three community workers, such as a police officer or a mailman. 

  • Within the first twenty minutes, 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. 

  • Within the entire run, note five aspects of your environment that you find beautiful. Do you like how the trees look in the 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 the 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 the food in your mouth without chewing.

  4. Chew a small bite and see how the taste or texture changes.

  5. Note how the food feels on your tongue. 

  6. Finally, swallow the food and see if any taste lingers in your mouth. 

Mindful eating can also help you reduce your eating speed if you are usually a fast eater. 

How Often Should You Practice Mindfulness? 

Studies have found that even ten minutes a day of mindfulness or meditation can have mental health benefits. If you aren't used to meditating, you can start with two or three minutes and work your way up. You can also incorporate your mindfulness practices into your daily routine, like the running and eating mindfulness practice examples above. 

In addition, you can do mindfulness on the go by practicing it while you walk, during therapy, or at your desk at work. Mindfulness can be adapted in hundreds of ways, so consider buying a mindfulness workbook to learn more. 

You can also try mindfulness therapy if you're struggling with mindfulness independently. Mindfulness 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 suffering from anxiety or depression may, on the other hand, benefit from mindfulness therapy for cancer patients under the supervision of a therapist.

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When Was The Last Time You Paid Attention To Your Thoughts?

Counseling Options 

It's possible for individuals and families to practice mindful activities on their own, with an instructor, or in a group. However, you may find the most effective benefits when youe schedule a meeting with a mindfulness therapist. You can attend mindfulness 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 mindfulness counseling online. 

Studies have found that online mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially effective in addressing symptoms of common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and may be beneficial in reducing stress and improving the overall quality of life. In addition, this form of therapy is as effective as traditional in-person therapy. 

With an online platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a mindfulness-based therapist within 24 to 48 hours after signing up for services. You can also choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions, and your therapist can send you worksheets or resources to help you learn at-home mindfulness practices.  


Mindfulness is an ancient practice that provides various therapeutic benefits for individuals, families, and those who need marriage counseling. It is often used in therapy to help clients ground themselves, focus on the present, and reduce unwanted thoughts. If you're interested in learning more about how mindfulness creates a positive mental state, consider reaching out to a mental health professional and scheduling an appointment for compassionate guidance and personalized instruction. 

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