Mindfulness in the treatment of substance use disorders: A phenomenological study of Swedish practitioners’ experiences

University essay from Lunds universitet/Socialhögskolan; Lunds universitet/Master of Science in Global Studies; Lunds universitet/Graduate School

Abstract: Mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been applied in numerous fields from behavioral medicine, nursing and psychiatry, to psychology and social work. Research on mindfulness and MBIs is increasingly providing evidence of the efficacy and benefits of MBIs for the treatment of a vast array of conditions. Yet, the application of mindfulness in the field of social work is still at its initial stages and among the most recent areas of its application includes the treatment of substance use disorders. However, the current research on mindfulness is based on epistemological and methodological stances that allow only a partial investigation of the phenomenon, as it is primary focused on the evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness and MBIs or in the search of its underlying neurological mechanism. The aim of this work is to employ the experience o f five Swedish practitioners to understand the influence of mindfulness in the social work therapeutic relationship, and exploring the advantages and challenges that MBIs offer in the treatment of substance use disorders in the Swedish context. The aim is pursued relying on a descriptive phenomenological research design. The main findings of this work suggest: (a) the suitability of phenomenology in theorizing mindfulness and MBIs within the therapeutic encounter and in the treatment of substance use disorders; (b) the body is the main tool in the process of understanding one’s own emotional and cognitive life in the therapeutic work with mindfulness and MBIs; (c) the compassionate, accepting and non-judging features of mindfulness and MBIs offer a valuable ideological alternative to the zero tolerance model and the treatment methods that characterize the Swedish drug policy; (d) mindfulness is not merely a therapeutic tool but represents an overreaching aspect of the life of its practitioners, whether they are social workers or clients. Keywords: mindfulness, MBIs, phenomenology, substance use disorders treatment, social work.

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