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Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)



In the spring of 2010 I had the privilege of participating a five day clinician training in Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) which was held at the Rochester Zen Centre, NY. This was one of the last trainings to be co- facilitated by Alan Marlatt, one of the originators of MBRP, who passed away less than a year later. For three decades Alan conducted groundbreaking research in relapse prevention and harm reduction. In the last few years of his life, he and his team of research graduates began to develop the MBRP curriculum.


Following the template established by mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat Zinn, MBRP is a program that integrates mindfulness practices with evidence based cognitive and behavioural strategies. Through the group sessions, participants learn how to bear witness to their inner experiences, cultivating an awareness of  habitual patterns, especially the “automatic” reactions that often trigger relapses.



From the MBRP website  :


‘The mindfulness practices in MBRP are designed to help us pause, observe present experience, and bring awareness to the range of choices before each of us in every moment.  We learn to respond in ways that serves us, rather than react in ways that are detrimental to our health and happiness. Ultimately, we are working towards freedom from deeply ingrained and often catastrophic habits.


Similar to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression, MBRP is designed as an aftercare program integrating mindfulness practices and principles with cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention. In our experience, MBRP is best suited to individuals who have undergone initial treatment and wish to maintain their treatment gains and develop a lifestyle that supports their well-being and recovery.


The primary goals of MBRP are:


1. Develop awareness of personal triggers and habitual reactions, and learn ways to create a pause in this seemingly automatic process.


2. Change our relationship to discomfort, learning to recognize challenging emotional and physical experiences and responding to them in skillful ways.


3. Foster a nonjudgmental, compassionate approach toward ourselves and our experiences.


4. Build a lifestyle that supports both mindfulness practice and recovery.’




I came away from this MBRP clinician training with two profound messages. First, I have a deep respect for how powerful mindfulness can be in a treatment setting. We are all ensnared within the habitual coping patterns of our own design. Shining the light of non judgmental awareness upon these restrictive patterns is the first step to unravelling these patterns and liberating ourselves. Second, this approach is only effective if I am doing my own mindfulness homework.


In the spring of 2011, I was invited to teach MBRP to addiction counsellors in Bridgewater, NS., the first training of this kind in the Atlantic Canada.


MBRP is  an excellent way of enhancing addiction treatment programming while empowering your clients to take better care of themselves.