Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction: Effectiveness

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): Life Changing!image

I have been a psychologist and counsellor for over 20 years, and my work with Mindfulness Therapies has been some of the most rewarding.  But what is more, I have developed a commitment to my own practice of Mindfulness meditation and mindful living, which has been life changing!.

In order to train to become an MBSR teacher, I immersed myself in the practice of Mindfulness mediation and I attended 3 trainings and 2 retreats offered by my MBSR teachers at the Center For Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts.  Our learning paralleled the deep experience of MBSR that our clients receive when they come to our classes.

I found that during those 5 programs, the teachings of MBSR changed me in deep ways. I have learned to be more calm, to be less married to time, to slow down and not feel like I have to be productive every minute of every day.  More importantly, it has taught me to be more present and to view life’s stressors in ways that do not disturb me as much as before.  Living in the present moment has brought me much joy and happiness and, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, I feel like I have been intensely trained in the art of living.

And I am finding that the participants who have taken my classes are finding these instructions for living present and happier life changing as well.

Here are some other stories and comments from clinicians and participants (these are extracted from an article by Brant Rogers)

Clinician and MBSR Participant Comments about their Experience of MBSR

“I find that those of my patients who participated in the MBSR course had better awareness and attitude toward their symptoms. In their own personal ways, this positive internal shift of attention helped them gain new understanding of their symptoms (i.e., pain, anxiety, etc.) and even help them in times of more severe symptomatology. In some cases, this skill has helped them become less dependent on pharmacologic therapy and more willing to adopt other self-care methods.” – MD, Internist, referring physician, Hillsboro

“The body aches and discomforts that the medical doctors couldn’t even explain, much less fix, MBSR has alleviated.” – MBSR graduate, Public School Teacher

“I had already endured years of chronic illness, multiple surgeries, and breast cancer with ever- dwindling inner resources to sustain me before discovering the MBSR 8 week course. This course gave me back my connection to healthy self that had been stripped of me over the course of my medical journey.” – Cancer Survivor, MBSR graduate

“Overall, I am calmer with my clients and sharing what I have learned with them is helping them to change their views of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges._ – LCSW, MBSR graduate, referring clinician, Hillsboro

“I work in palliative care and to provide the greatest benefit to patients and colleagues I need to practice effective self-care; MBSR is the center of that practice. I believe MBSR sustains me during difficult times and it allows me enjoy the bountiful times all the while helping me to remain mindful of my health and wellness.” – MSW, cancer survivor, MBSR graduate

“MBSR training gave me an exciting tool to share within the self-care opportunities offered by Occupational Therapists.” – OT and MBSR Graduate

“Due to my Crohn’s diagnosis my pregnancy was classified ‘high risk.’ MBSR was import and in my taking time to recognize and relieve the effects of daily stressors and helping to reduce inflammation. My son was born healthy and unmedicated in a natural delivery.” – MBSR Graduate

1 This presentation is part of a panel discussion at the Pain Management Options for Chronic Pain Disorders Continuing Education Interprofessional Series at Pacific University’s College of Health Professionals, October 19, 2012.


You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to sail

imageLife is like the ocean, sometimes it is calm, and sometimes it is stormy and intense.  When life gets stormy, we often feel overwhelmed and react.  When we react we often are coming at it from an automatic pilot rather than from a place of choice.

Given that life has its ups, and downs, no matter what, just like the ocean, we can equip ourselves with the tools we need to navigate it.  Like a skilled sailor navigates a boat during an intense storm.  So what are the tools?


Being in the present moment can assist us to see what is happening and to have an awareness of what is going on and what our impulses are before we act.

One way to cultivate this presence is with mindfulness practice.  When you find yourself in a stormy moment, close your eyes, and take 3 deep breaths.  Then feel your feet and the sensations of the feet touching the ground.  Spend a minute attending to these sensations.

Taking a moment to come to the present may open up the space for you to reach into your deep wisdom so that you can choose an action rather than react and cause yourself further sorrow.

3 Common Torturous Thoughts that Stressed People have – And how to free yourself from them

  • “I’m not going to get it all done!”
  • “What if _______ (worst case scenario) happens?!!!!”
  • “I’m not good enough…”

The mind is like a factory of thoughts.  It just doesn’t stop.  When you begin to practice Mindfulness, you begin to realize how the mind just won’t stop.

The problem with stress and anxiety is that the mind doesn’t stop generating torturous thoughts about what might go wrong, what is wrong, how we are not good enough or how we won’t be able to handle one thing or another.  Most of these thoughts are unhelpful and useless.

Mindfulness helps us become aware of our thoughts but more importantly it allows us to decrease the power of thoughts, and therefore, our stress and anxiety.

Tip#1: When you become aware that your mind is engaged in torturous, unhelpful thinking, bring your awareness to the present moment by finding 5 things with each of your senses (except taste).  As you find each thing, spend a few seconds paying attention to each:

  • 5 things you see
  • 5 things you touch
  • 5 things you hear
  • 5 things you smell

Doing this each time you feel stressed, anxious, worried, caught in negative thinking, you will weaken the power of the thoughts, gain mastery over your mind, and feel empowered.

Welcome to the Vancouver Centre for Mindfulness


I am very excited to embark on my dream of creating the Vancouver Centre for Mindfulness Therapies.  As a psychologist, my passion is to make a difference in the lives of others.  I am starting my dream by offering Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs in the community.  This program was developed at the Centre for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where I have received my training.

Stress, Anxiety, physical or emotional distress and illness have been shown to benefit from this mindfulness program.  For more information click on Registration.

Dr. Erika Horwitz, Registered Psychologist