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Preventing Relapse: A Study Examining the Role of Mindful Body Awaressness

A major issue for women in chemical dependency treatment is the link between relapse and a history of interpersonal life stress. A remarkably high proportion of women entering chemical dependency treatment have experienced traumatic violence such as physical, sexual and verbal abuse, resulting in life stress. A recent study reported that 89% of women entering chemical dependency treatment had a history of such trauma. Additionally, authors Herman and Aposhyan suggest that chronic pain complaints may be the physical manifestation of trauma, resulting in a possible overlap of these health issues.

This Fall Residence XII will implement a new research project in its residential inpatient program: Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy for Women’s Substance Abuse Treatment (MABT Study). The study is designed to test a new treatment that combines massage techniques and body awareness exercises with the development of mindfulness skills. The goals of this study are to help women in substance abuse treatment accept sensory and emotional experiences. This skill is thought to be important for relapse prevention given the connection between stress, negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, sadness and the resulting behavior and relapse. Additionally, we hope to learn if this type of treatment will work in community clinic inpatient and outpatient programs.

The MABT approach teaches awareness of the body for managing the effects of stress and is thought to help a woman increase her emotional regulation in stressful situations. Mindful awareness is used to increase skillful and healthful responses to situations that may be distressing or that may precipitate unhealthy behavior such as relapse. The MABT approach blends the connection of the mind (mental and emotional awareness) with the body (sensory and physical awareness) in an innovative approach to relapse prevention.

Recruitment for the study is scheduled to begin in October 2008. Eligible women will be residential inpatients, whose aftercare plan includes one of our outpatient programs (Intensive Outpatient or Relapse Prevention). The process of entering the study consists of a short eligibility survey and a commitment to complete assessments at the beginning, three, six and nine months after entering the study. The purpose of the eligibility survey is to ensure that the woman is a good fit for the study and the study is the right choice for the woman. Women who are eligible and choose to enter the study will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: the treatment as usual (TAU) group, or the MABT group. The MABT group will be asked to commit to coming to Residence XII for 10 MABT sessions over 12 weeks, in addition to their regularly scheduled treatment program.

The MABT intervention will be provided by three Licensed Massage Practitioners (LMP). The LMPs have been licensed and practicing in Washington state for at least five years. Each LMP will be trained in the MABT approach by Cynthia Price, PhD, a researcher at the University of Washington’s School of Nursing whose work includes developing this innovative intervention. By following the TAU group, the researchers will be able to compare the relapse rates of those who received usual care to those who received the MABT approach. Both groups will provide invaluable information that will advance our understanding of serving the chemical dependency recovery community with the most effective treatment programs, and the best tools for success. This study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Previous research with the MABT intervention include a study with female veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain, and studies with women in recovery from childhood sexual abuse. These studies had positive outcomes in women with trauma histories. Additionally, both studies with women in recovery from childhood sexual abuse found favorable results including increased body awareness with decreased PTSD, dissociation, physical symptoms and overall psychological distress. Study results suggest that MABT positively affects a woman’s sense of inner security, an important factor in healing from trauma. The new study starting at Residence XII in October of this year hopes to better understand the link between interpersonal life stress and relapse in women’s addiction treatment.

If you have any questions about the MABT study at Residence XII, please contact Marissa Brooks, Research Coordinator at (425) 605-4310 or [email protected]