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PHP & IOP: Mindfulness Practices for Anxiety & Depression

June 10th, 2024

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“There’s never a good time for mindfulness, and there’s never a bad time. Mindfulness is one of those things you simply do, because if you practice being aware–completely open to the universe, just exactly as it is–you will transform your life in time.” -Marsha Linehan

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of existing in the present moment and noticing one’s current experience without judgment but rather with openness, acceptance, and curiosity. Mindfulness finds its origins in Buddhism. In 1881, a British magistrate in Sri Lanka translated the Buddhist concept of “Sati” to the English word “mindfulness” (Matejko).

It is important to note that, in traditional Buddhism, Sati is the practice of remembering or calling to mind aspects of Buddhist teachings with an emphasis on attaining a good and true perspective through mindful meditation (Sharf).

In the mid-1900s, Mahasi Sayadaw, a meditation teacher from Myanmar, popularized a form of mindfulness that involved non-judgmental awareness and did not require prior knowledge of Buddhist doctrine (Barua).

Mindfulness concretely came to the United States when a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jon Kabat-Zinn, learned about mindfulness in Buddhism during his studies and opened the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

He created a program there called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Since then, mindful meditation as a practice to promote health through relaxation has grown steadily in the United States (Matejko).

Keep reading to explore the role of mindfulness for anxiety and depression in PHP and IOP programs.

Mindfulness Strategies: Coping with Depression & Anxiety Symptoms

Incorporating mindfulness is part of a well rounded depression and anxiety treatment plan. Mindfulness is a core component of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which was originally developed by Marsha Linehan to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. Elements of DBT are now applied more broadly to treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses.

Incorporating mindfulness exercises for anxiety and depression into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been explored as CBT naturally addresses awareness of emotional states and thought and behavior patterns.

Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) is another popular type of therapy that, while it doesn’t explicitly name mindfulness, employs it as a core principle. ACT involves observing internal phenomena without trying to change them and seeing oneself as separate from distressing feelings and thoughts (Hofmann and Gómez).


Types of Mindfulness Exercises For Anxiety & Depression

In addition to the general concepts of mindfulness, some specific mindful practices focus on bringing attention to the breath, doing body scan meditations, and visualization meditations.

Grounding techniques like square breathing and five senses include awareness of breath as well as being aware of one’s sensory experience by noticing what one can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Mindfulness can also be integrated into daily life. An example of this is the practice of mindful eating (Hofmann and Gómez).

These strategies can be practiced in individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, and utilized throughout daily life. Typical outcomes include decreased stress, increased relaxation, greater acceptance of mental, emotional, and physical experiences, and improved insight as well as emotional regulation.

Here are a few simple and quick mindfulness exercises you can incorporate to your everyday routine:

  • Mindful Breathing: Focus on your breath, observing each inhale and exhale. Practice square breathing: inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.
  • Body Scan Meditation: Lie down or sit comfortably. Slowly scan your body from head to toe, noticing any sensations or tension.
  • Visualization Meditation: Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful place. Focus on the details of this place, engaging all your senses.
  • Grounding Techniques: Notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
  • Square Breathing: Inhale, hold, exhale, and hold each for a count of four.

The Impact of Mindfulness-Based Interventions on Anxiety & Depression

The use of mindfulness in depression and anxiety treatment is supported by research. According to Shapiro and Weisbaum’s “History of Mindfulness and Psychology,” Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) “have significant health benefits including decreased stress, insomnia, anxiety, and panic, along with enhancing personal well-being, perceptual sensitivity, processing speed, empathy, concentration, reaction time, motor skills, and cognitive performance including short- and long-term memory recall and academic performance.”

In addition to these health benefits, MBIs are specifically effective in treating anxiety and depression and “have demonstrated efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression symptom severity in a broad range of treatment-seeking individuals.

MBIs consistently outperform non-evidence-based treatment and active control conditions, such as health education, relaxation training, and supportive psychotherapy.

MBIs also perform comparable to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)” (Hofmann and Gómez). MBIs have been proven to provide multiple benefits and serve as excellent depression and anxiety treatment options.

Integrating Mindfulness in PHP & IOP Programs

Mindfulness is integrated into both Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). It is common to integrate mindfulness strategies in individual therapy as well as group therapy.

Multiple therapeutic groups utilize mindfulness strategies, and some programs offer groups specifically intended to allow participants to practice mindfulness and meditation.

As program participants engage in IOP and PHP programs, it can be difficult to explore the concerns that brought them to treatment. A lot of therapeutic work involves considering past experiences, exploring thoughts and feelings, accepting current conditions, and considering adapting behaviors, all of which can increase distress for participants.

Grounding mindfulness strategies are useful to decrease distress levels for participants to help them engage in treatment without becoming dysregulated.

From my experience at an intensive outpatient wellness center, I noticed a secondary benefit of mindfulness is that it can benefit staff members as well as participants. At times, staff members can experience high levels of stress when working in IOP and PHP programs.

Opportunities for mindful practices in these programs aid both participants and staff members in managing stress, which then results in staff providing higher-quality care.

The Role of Mindfulness in Long-Term Recovery

In mindful meditation, there is a recognition that it is accessible to all of us. Take a moment for yourself to consider your present moment, notice your surroundings–what you can hear, see, smell, taste, and touch.

You might notice the pressure of the ground beneath your feet. You might notice the sensation of your breath as you breathe in and out–how it feels to fill up your lungs completely, and then empty your lungs breathing all the way out–the rise and fall of your chest and belly.

You might notice any tension in your body. As you become more aware of your present moment, your breath is an anchor you can always come back to–a “natural, soothing rhythm that’s been there since you were born” and that will remain with you throughout life (Stahl and Goldstein).

When participants exit IOP and PHP programs, they take their ability to be mindfully present with them as a powerful tool to relax and manage distressing thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

Participants often find through intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization programs that their insight has increased through the practice of mindfulness, and there is a sense of empowerment to continue to utilize these practices to manage anxiety and depression symptoms as they leave the program and continue their journey of long-term recovery.

IOP & PHP Program: Effective Depression & Anxiety Treatment

Our mental health clinic offers comprehensive PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) and IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) options designed specifically for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety. Our specialized programs provide a structured and supportive environment to help you manage your anxiety and depression symptoms and achieve lasting recovery.

Clarity Clinic’s IOP program is ideal for those seeking intensive treatment for depression and anxiety while maintaining their daily responsibilities. The IOP for depression and anxiety includes individual therapy, group therapy, and evidence-based practices such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

We focus on providing personalized care tailored to your unique needs, ensuring that you receive the most effective treatment possible.

Our PHP program offers a higher level of care for individuals who need more intensive support than traditional outpatient therapy. This program includes a combination of individual therapy, group sessions, and mindfulness exercises for anxiety and depression.

It's designed to provide a structured environment where you can focus on your mental health and develop coping strategies to manage your symptoms effectively.

Targeted Treatment for Anxiety & Depression

At Clarity Clinic, we have the best experienced therapists who specialize in a wide range of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more.

We also offer a range of therapy options including online therapy, couples therapy, talk therapy, group therapy, and more. Our clinics are conveniently located throughout Chicago such as the Loop, River North, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Mokena, Lakeview Belmont, and Lakeview Broadway.

Book a consultation today to find the right therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist for you! Click the button below if you are interested in learning more about our leading PHP and IOP programs in Chicago.


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Related Readings:

PHP & IOP: Mindfulness for Anxiety & Depression FAQs


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