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Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing

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Author: David A. Treleaven, Willoughby Britton

Publisher: WW Norton & Co

Published: 13/02/2018

ISBN: 9780393709780

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From elementary schools to psychotherapy offices, mindfulness meditation is an increasingly mainstream practice. At the same time, trauma remains a fact of life: the majority of us will experience a traumatic event in our lifetime and up to 20% of us will develop posttraumatic stress. This means that anywhere mindfulness is being practised, someone in the room is likely to be struggling with trauma.

At first glance, this appears to be a good thing: trauma creates stress and mindfulness is a proven tool for reducing it. But the reality is not so simple.

Drawing on a decade of research and clinical experience, psychotherapist and educator David Treleaven shows that mindfulness meditation-practised without an awareness of trauma-can exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress. Instructed to pay close, sustained attention to their inner world, survivors can experience flashbacks, dissociation and even retraumatisation.

This raises a crucial question for mindfulness teachers, trauma professionals and survivors everywhere: How can we minimise the potential dangers of mindfulness for survivors while leveraging its powerful benefits?

Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness offers answers to this question. Part I provides an insightful and concise review of the histories of mindfulness and trauma, including the way modern neuroscience is shaping our understanding of both. Through grounded scholarship and wide-ranging case examples, Treleaven illustrates the ways mindfulness can help-or hinder-trauma recovery.

Part II distills these insights into five key principles for trauma-sensitive mindfulness. Covering the role of attention, arousal, relationship, dissociation and social context within trauma-informed practice, Treleaven offers 36 specific modifications designed to support survivors’ safety and stability. The result is a groundbreaking and practical approach that empowers those looking to practise mindfulness in a safe, transformative way.