Growing Concern With Mindfulness Meditation

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.


1 thought on “Growing Concern With Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Kathy C

    Thanks Zyp.
    In New Mexico this is big business. Every new Age Practitioner, Quack, and Charlatan, is a Mindfulness Trainer, or Incorporates it is their practice. I started tracking how the local Newspapers cover it. They run what I call Advertorials, where they make false Claims, generally these are PR or “News” Releases from Practitioners expanding their practices. They have gotten employees of the Health Department, and Physicians to endorse it too. The current “Opiate Epidemic” In New Mexico has mostly been a Heroin Epidemic, but the Opiate Epidemic sounds better, has been an opportunity for these ghouls, to peddle even more Pseudo Science. Of course the Adverse Events from this Mindfulness nonsense have been removed from the discussion.
    The only terminology I can apply anymore is Pod People. They have repeated this in the “News” and Advertised it so much that people believe it. They are even “Studying” it at U.N.M. New Mexico has one of the Highest Overdose and Suicide rates in the Nation, yet no one asks, why. Since local Media presented Mindfulness as “Cure,” then why do the ranks continue to grow? Why does there appear to be more broken and damaged people on the streets? The Facts don’t add up. Many of the older working class people I know in the Trades, who are around Retirement Age, or above are dealing with Multiple Hip or Knee Surgeries. These people have been brainwashed, in some cases they are terrified of Opiates. Others are now home-bound, and half out of their wits with the Chronic Pain, and the deception they are gettign from their Physicians.
    One of my friends a former Hair Dresser, is now neurotic, irritable, and obsessed with Suicide. Like a lot of people with Pain he has not had a decent nights sleep in years. Many of these people are on a range of other dangerous and useless Medications, along with Steroids and Inject able, Anti Inflammatories. Physicians are unaware that these “therapies”s don’t work, and in order to separate themselves from all of those “Bad Doctors” who forced Opiates on their Patients, are peddling their Practices as “Integrative.” They see to be stepping over each other to mislead the public, promote themselves, and appear legitimate by peddling New Age Quackery.
    I am almost afraid to speak to any of my friends and acquaintances anymore. Afraid I will hear they are dead, hospitalized or find out that they are unable to leave the house due to the pain. I have been monitoring some Pain Groups, and Sites, and have been noticing that a lot of the “News” they Post, is not conducive to Science, or the discussion. When I asked why they are posting these particular Articles, I realized, they are disseminating the same nonsense. They see to get a conditioned response from the Pain Community. Usually a “My Story” venting. This tactic has not worked. The Industry came up with a noxious way to discredit all of us. The Deceptive wording in the DSMV is an example.
    I have been watching those Bobble-heads from Facebook, Google, and Twitter testify, they deceived this country with their “Russian Propaganda.” The Deception goes way beyond what they are admitting to. They Gas Lighted everyone, and they are still at it. They wove Propaganda into these Social Media and Search Engines so easily, and no one noticed. Even now, people are repeating garbage they “Heard.” They did the same thing for the Pharma and other Industries too. Facebook allowed or encouraged the monitoring of Patient Groups, by the Industries or other parties with nefarious intent. We have fallen down the rabbit hole, people thought that they were informed as they are being manipulated.

    Liked by 2 people


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