Psychologists Express Growing Concern With Mindfulness Meditation | Inverse| By Peter Hess on October 10, 2017
Mindfulness, which involves the simple act of paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, has become something of a buzzword in the past couple of decades, and psychologists are concerned.
More than just a meditation practice, mindfulness is an industry — with some proponents saying it can treat anxiety, cancer, and everything in between.
The problem is, in many cases, those treatments haven’t sufficiently been scrutinized by trained professionals, and psychologists aren’t impressed.
In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, a team of 15 psychiatrists, psychologists, and mindfulness experts from 15 different institutions outline the problems they see with the current state of the mindfulness industry and what might be done about it.
In short, these experts are concerned with what they see:
Lots of people and organizations — many of which are well-meaning — that have gotten overzealous as they make lots of money off of mindfulness therapies.
Despite these criticisms of mindfulness, even major corporations like Google, General Mills, and Target have invested in mindfulness training to boost employees’ productivity.
Employee productivity adds to the bottom line, so corporations are eager to use any tools they can to squeeze more productivity out of their employees.
The British government is giving schoolchildren mindfulness training.
It may sound alarmist to say people could be hurt by a practice that seems as simple as taking deep breaths and being present in your body, but it’s important to remember that in many cases, people receiving mindfulness therapy may be living with very real mental health issues.
There is some evidence that mindfulness-based therapies can help people with certain issues, like substance use, but it’s very limited.
Van Dam and his colleagues worry that the overuse of mindfulness-based therapies could turn people off to the whole field before psychologists even figure out the best way to help them.
The authors of the study make their attitudes clear when it comes to the current state of the mindfulness industry:
“Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed,” they write.
And while this comes off as unequivocal, some think they don’t go far enough in calling out specific instances of quackery.
“It’s not bare-knuckle, that’s for sure. I’m sure it got watered down in the review process,” James Coyne, Ph.D., an outspoken psychologist who’s extensively criticized the mindfulness industry, tells Inverse
Coyne agrees with the conceptual issues outlined in the paper, specifically the fact that many mindfulness therapies are based on science that doesn’t really prove their efficacy, as well as the fact that researchers with copyrights on mindfulness therapies have financial conflicts of interest that could influence their research. But he thinks the authors are too concerned with tone policing.
This paper may not go so far as some would like, but it is a first step toward drawing attention to the often flawed science underlying mindfulness therapies.
In the frenzied hunt for the next blockbuster pain treatment, the CDC has sent many unscrupulous “healers” and “therapists” into the “alternative medicine” they recommend instead of opioids.
Apparently, anyone can become a mindfulness trainer and start making money off desperate pain patients:
McMindful: Make money as a mindfulness trainer, no background or weekend retreat required – Coyne of the Realm – by James C Coyne May 13, 2017
Can a clinical psychologist ethically offer a product with improbable, unsubstantiated claims to be applied to patients?
A web-based training package promises to turn anyone quickly into a mindfulness trainer, regardless of background or previous training.
- There are no legal restraints in most jurisdictions on someone calling themselves a mindfulness trainer or therapist.
- There are few or no enforceable ethical codes applicable to such persons.
- Many treatment settings are replacing therapists with mindfulness trainers.
- The wannabe trainer doesn’t even need to study the package before slapping on a relabeling and selling to clients and industry.
- Elsewhere I have provided continually updated evaluations of mindfulness-based training and therapies.
- There is still a lack of evidence of any advantage of mindfulness over other active treatments.
- Claims about mechanism depend on low quality studies that do not rule out anything beyond nonspecific –placebo- effects. There may be no specific mechanism beyond that.