Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Mindfulness training helps doctors and patients

Edited by Jill Wright,

The insights offered by Dr Pauline Chen's New York Times Doctor and Patient blog post
about the extraordinary benefits for burnt-out physicians of a course of mindfulness training are a must read for anyone suffering from the emotional, mental and physical symptoms of a condition that is all too common these days.

Dr Chen drew her observations from two studies in The Annals of Family Medicine and other research that indicates that mindfulness training not only relieves the symptoms of stress and physical exhaustion and improves a doctor's attentiveness and empathy, the changes are picked up by their patients.

As it happens, Psychology Melbourne is offering two free mindfulness classes as our contribution to National Psychology Week in November. I suspect they are likely to fill up pretty quickly, so you might want to book.

Having practised meditation for much of my adult life, I have been very interested in the use of mindfulness techniques in psychology and other areas of health.It was one of the first topics explored by the then fledgling Melbourne Study Group Network which I set up for the Australian Psychological Society.

Those classes were run by Dr Craig Hassed, who is now involved in mindfulness training at Monash University. He and Dr Craig McKenzie have written a Kindle book on mindfulness.

Despite the presence of the Buddha in that illustration over there on the right, I think that one of the important elements in mindfulness is that it removes all the trappings of Buddhism that can become the focus of practice and concentrates on the science.

There has been an increasing use of mindfulness in the practice of psychology. These days, it's very often employed even with "single school" evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

As Dr Chen points out, one of the problems busy professionals face is that a standard training course in mindfulness requires a significant commitment of time. But researchers found that even an abbreviated course decreased levels of burnout, anxiety, depression and distress among doctors, and the effects persisted.

For those who have the time, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Eric Swanson's The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness - the result of a collaboration between the Buddhist monk and neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior is worth exploring.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.