As evidence for the health benefits of mindfulness meditation continues to mount, it’s no surprise that behavioral health providers are in need of appropriate ways to incorporate mindfulness practices in their sessions with patients.
After all, though beneficial, mindfulness can be a tricky thing to introduce in sessions. Some patients are skeptical. They may wonder:
Do I have to be a Buddhist to meditate?
Does this go against my religious beliefs?
Do I need to buy special equipment, or have a dedicated meditation room?
Do I have to start wearing tie-dyed shirts?
The answer to all of the above is, of course, no.
Even if you have luck getting a client to participate in a three-minute breathing exercise in the therapy room, you may still wonder how to best help them get started with their own practice between sessions.
The following five videos—which were created by some of the top American mindfulness teachers—are free, accessible on YouTube, and brief enough for the beginning meditator. If you’re new to mindfulness yourself and interested in seeing what the hype is about, these guided meditations are also a great place to start.
It may be best to choose one or two from this list that you think will be the best fit for patients on a case-by-case basis.
1. Meditation for Beginners with Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg
This six-minute animated video is a fantastic introduction for the new meditator.
If you’ve ever meditated—and hopefully, if you’re recommending it to clients, you have—you know that staying in one position for a long period of time can be surprisingly physically strenuous. That said, those new to meditating will likely do best with a shorter session. This brief, friendly video is a great place to start.
Dan Harris’ status as a popular television news anchor may help make meditation something more approachable and less-intimidating to the newcomer seeking a strictly secular practice. World-renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg does a beautiful job guiding the meditation itself.
2. Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan Meditation
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the developer of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), the first heavily-researched mindfulness-based approach designed for clinical settings. His classic book, “Full Catastrophe Living, Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness” earned him increased notoriety in the international mindfulness market.
Kabat-Zinn’s classic body scan is often among the first mindfulness practices taught to newcomers, and coming in at just around ten minutes, this one is ideal.
If you plan to use recommend this exercise, be aware that it’s common for people to feel resistance to doing the body scan at first. Many of us have learned to “leave” or dissociate from our bodies as a way of coping with difficult feelings and sensations. Some clients may find it to be unexpectedly challenging, frightening even, to come into the body.
For this reason, depending on your client, you may wish to practice this one in the therapy room with the client, first, before suggesting they try it alone.
3. Dan Siegel’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation
Also at ten minutes long, Dan Siegel’s guided meditation is a great fit for the meditation newbie.
Siegel has dedicated his life to researching, writing, teaching, and educating about applications of mindfulness for mental and physical health. He has authored many books and journal articles and is regarded as an expert in both clinical psychiatry and mindfulness-based approaches to mental health.
For these reasons, among others, his meditation is a fantastic fit for any mental health professional seeking to integrate mindfulness into clinical practice.
4. Tara Brach’s Ten-Minute Mindfulness Meditation
In contrast to Siegel’s more word-heavy guided meditation, Tara Brach’s 10-minute meditation is slow, soft and simple with minimal language and explanation. She leaves ample space for stillness and quietude for the client who may find her style more soothing than one that involves more verbal teaching and direction.
Brach is a clinical psychologist and renowned meditation teacher who has built her career around teaching meditation and building community for practitioners in the United States. She has dedicated a portion of her work to applying mindfulness principles to broader social issues like racial inequality and environmental sustainability.
5. Zindal Segal’s Three-Minute Breathing Space
Zindal Segal is co-founder of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), an approach based on Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR that was designed to combine the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with the principles of mindfulness.
The three-minute breathing space exercise—which was designed in collaboration with Segal’s co-founders of MBCT, John Teasdale and Mark Williams—is geared specifically toward helping patients apply the skills they were learning in the therapy room to day-to-day life. Many therapists struggle with helping patients use the mindfulness skills they are learning in the therapy room between sessions, whether triggered by challenging situations or simply reverting to autopilot.