MBCT at Amity’s Circle Tree Ranch

A series of rather unexpected and fortuitous events lead to the introduction of Mindfulness-based meditation at Amity’s Circle Tree Ranch Teaching and Therapeutic Community in March, 2008. Rod Mullen, President and CEO of Amity Foundation, and Mary Stanton, Senior Counselor and Trainer with Amity Foundation, are the presenters and authors of this work. Always interested in current academic literature, we were drawn to topics concerning neuroplasticity of the adult brain, and the capacity of the brain to develop new neuronal/synaptic interconnections and thereby develop new functions and roles (Begley, 2007). We were intrigued by newly discovered principles which are at the heart of some revolutionary work in the therapy of adult sufferers of a variety of physical and psychological disorders. However, this interest did not extend to meditation practices until we were presented with the opportunity to attend an intensive retreat and training in the practice of MBCT. The six-day retreat presented by Zindel Segal Ph.D., Sona Dimidjian, Ph.D., and Steven Hickman, Psy.D. in Joshua Tree, California was a profound experience for both of us, personally and professionally. From that point our preparation included the disciplined development of a personal practice of mindfulness meditation, studying current literature on a variety of applications of Mindfulness-based meditation practices, and planning the implementation of these practices in our Community. We discovered that above all else, it is essential for instructors of MBCT to teach from their experience of a personal meditative practice and to embody the attitudes that they invite participants to practice. Our aim was both to teach the MBCT curriculum and to weave mindfulness practices into all aspects of the Therapeutic Community.

We first introduced the concepts and practice of Mindfulness-based meditation to the entire community during a week-long workshop in March 2008. This general orientation included a description of mindfulness as a metacognitive state of “awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmental to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). Each day of the workshop began with a guided meditation which consisted of bringing greater awareness to physical sensations and body-feeling states (the body-scan meditation), and sustaining attention on the object of one’s current experience (focus on the breath, and seeing, hearing exercises). Periods of silence and “mindful walking” were also included. Throughout the workshop, participants first experienced mindfulness practices, and then the concept was presented in a seminar format. We detailed the MBCT course which would be available to interested students and faculty members. This provided a foundation and general understanding when it came time to recruit participants for our first 5-Day MBCT course. Students were invited rather than required to attend the course.

Author's Bio: 

Rod Mullen is the President/ CEO and Founding Director of Amity Foundation (www.amityfdn.org). Graduating in 1966 from the University of California, Berkeley, Mullen has worked in the treatment field for over 40 years. Although primarily an administrator, he has extensive experience providing counseling, program design and implementation, conducting workshops and retreats within Amity, and providing training and consultation for other agencies. Mullen is the director and videographer of numerous video productions, author of extensive publications, and has presented and lectured both nationally and internationally on a variety of subjects related to treatment and the Therapeutic Community.

Mary Stanton, senior counselor with Amity Foundation, began her professional career in 1976 as a research chemist after receiving her BS in biochemistry and math from the University of New Mexico. Later, as the mother of three sons, she changed careers to teaching, completing her graduate coursework in Education and Library Science. Stanton taught high school and worked as a school librarian for a total of fifteen years prior to entering the counseling profession. During the five years she has been with Amity Foundation, Stanton has worked in a variety of capacities including counseling and training, developing and implementing new programs, grant writing, and writing for Amity’s websites (www.circletreeranch.org and www.amityfdn.org).

Debra Norton has worked in the field of chemical dependency for 12+ years and has held positions from Intake Coordinator, Quality Improvement Director, Executive Director to Chief Financial Officer. Her love for people and serving those in need as well as her personal life experiences with chemical dependency has resulted in her developing OUTREACH SERVICES. OUTREACH SERVICES is now her passion because it affords the ability to help so many more people rather than just serving one facility. Her experience in marketing, personnel, intake, clinical management and quality improvement allows Outreach Services to continue to grow as a reputable placement organization. http://www.drugandalcoholrehab.net/index.html

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