Mindfulness and Mental Health: Creating Awareness, Flexibility and Freedom




walserPresenter: Dr. Robyn Walser, is Director of TL Consultation Services, staff at the National Center for PTSD and is Associate Clinical Professor at University of California, Berkeley. As a licensed clinical psychologist, she maintains an international training, consulting and therapy practice. Dr. Walser is an expert in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and has co-authored 4 books on ACT including Learning ACT, The Mindful Couple, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress disorder and ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Bridge Psychological and Spiritual Care. ACT focuses on acceptance and mindfulness as well as commitment to behavior change linked to personal values. As such, mindfulness work has been a longstanding part of her work with clients as well as a personal practice. Dr. Walser has been doing ACT workshops since 1998; training in multiple formats and for multiple client problems. Dr. Walser has been described as a “passionate, creative, and bold ACT trainer and therapist” and she is best known for her dynamic, warm and challenging ACT trainings. She is often referred to as a clinician’s clinician. Her workshops feature a combination of lecture and experiential exercises designed to provide a unique learning opportunity in this state-of-the-art intervention. Dr. Walser has presented her research findings and papers at international and national conferences, universities and hospital settings; and she has been invited to international conferences to speak about ACT. She is invested in developing innovative ways to translate science-into-practice and continues to do research and education on dissemination of ACT and other therapies. She has had a number of leadership roles in international and national organizations and she served as Member At Large and President for the Association for Contextual and Behavioral Science, the main association that houses ACT. Overview: The painful experiences encountered in life may not only lead to problems in functioning, including a variety of behavioral problems ranging from substance abuse to relationship problems, they may also impact our mental health and sense of well-being for long periods of time. Many of the attempts to recover from these experiences involve regaining control over thoughts, sensations, and emotions as the path to living well. While some attempt to control these experiences can be expected and useful, many attempts to control thoughts, sensations, and emotions result in a furthering of the suffering. Mindfulness can be used to reduce these often rigid and inflexible attempts to control negative internal experience by fostering a sense of conscious awareness to the same. Mindfulness work includes assisting clients to develop an awareness to the process and ongoing flow of experience and may be used to facilitate a broader perspective of life and a sense of connectedness with others. Clients engaging in mindfulness may come to see that suffering is a universal experience and this can facilitate greater acceptance of the challenges of life. Mindfulness practice may also help to improve concentration, allowing greater focus in the activities undertaken life as well as promote affect tolerance. It may help clients to cope with stress, anger, and other forms of emotional difficulty. Clients may come to see thoughts and feelings as transient experiences, helping to decrease identification with momentary affective states. Mindfulness can assist clients in experiencing internal events fully and as they are without self-judgment and the added struggle against reality. In a similar way, mindfulness can facilitate finding peace with painful memories. Finally, by fully engaging in the present, life may be experienced in a richer, fuller way. The current presentation explores the use of mindfulness in the treatment of mental health issues. Objectives: (1) state a rationale for why mindfulness can be helpful to in the treatment of mental health issues; (2) summarize the benefits of mindfulness in mental health populations; and  (3) describe the utility of mindfulness in creating psychological flexibility, a key contributor to well-being.