Alternative techniques: meditation

  • Barnett, JE S
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Meditation is a process by which people learn to focus their attention as a way of gaining greater insight into themselves and their surroundings (Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, 2006). Meditation is used to treat a variety of symptoms, such as elevated blood pressure, anxiety, stress, pain and insomnia, as well as to promote overall health and well-being (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2007; Rainforth et al., 2007). In 2007, 9.4 percent of adults surveyed by NIH reported they practiced meditation (Barnes et al., 2008). When meditating, clients must focus their attention on "breathing, or on repeating a word, phrase or sound in order to suspend the stream of thoughts that normally occupies the conscious mind" (Mayo Clinic, 2010b). There are several different forms of meditation, each of which falls into one of two categories: mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation. Mindfulness meditation focuses attention on breathing to develop increased awareness of the present, while concentrative meditation aims to increase overall concentration by focusing on a specific word or phrase (NCCAM, 2011c). Although there are many different types of meditation in each category — such as Vipassana, transcendental and walking meditation — most forms of meditation have four elements in common: a quiet location; a specific, comfortable posture; a focus of attention; and an open attitude (NCCAM, 2011c). Meditation can be integrated into ongoing psychological practice, but it is important that both clinicians and their clients are appropriately trained before attempting to meditate on their own. While there are no formal qualifications necessary for those who practice general meditation, a variety of organizations offer certification in specific forms of meditation, such as mindfulness-based meditation and transcendental meditation. Psychologists who want to integrate meditation into their practice will want to first assess the legitimacy of particular organizations before seeking certification through them.

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  • Shale AJ Barnett, JE

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