Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Created by the late G. Alan Marlatt, a professor at the University of Washington and his colleagues, including Dr. Sarah Bowen, mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) has been shown through research and practice to be effective in reducing relapse rates in substance use disorders.

MBRP, which is a contextual cognitive therapy, augments cognitive behavioral therapy during all phases of treatment at Urban Recovery. Research on outcomes shows it to have a positive effect on stress-reduction, relapse-prevention, anxiety, depression, managing chronic pain, and on trauma. Experts on our staff can help you overcome the impediments to a successful meditation practice, show you how to be response-able rather than reactive to triggers and cravings, and work with you to coordinate training and support in your community to deepen the proven positive effects of mindfulness on relapse prevention, recovery, and quality of life.

Two key MBRP concepts you can begin to put into practice include Urge Surfing and STOP. Urge surfing is a skill that allows one to get on top of an increasing wave of anxiety, whether in the form of panic, a craving, or an urge to use. This wave may seem like it will never end but research shows that waves of panic or waves of cravings follow a bell curve: They rise, peak, and flatten out. The concept behind urge surfing is to use breath meditation much like a surfer uses a surfboard to ride a wave to the shore. It may take practice to master this skill, but that practice has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the impact of cravings and anxiety on one’s thoughts and behaviors.

STOP is a mindfulness acronym for “Slow down, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed.” As with urge surfing, STOP allows you to become an unattached spectator to the river of thoughts and feelings that might otherwise wash you away. It ramps up the parasympathetic nervous system to assist you in moving out of the fight-flight-freeze mode of sympathetic nervous system reactivity. By slowing down long enough to breath and observe what you are feeling, you create space for choice and new options. This allows you the opportunity to proceed with a measured and healthy response rather than give into to impulses with blind reactivity.

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