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Why Mindfulness?

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Mindfulness has become a major topic of conversation in our culture–it’s meaning, it’s benefits, and the ways individuals can incorporate the practice into their relationships, careers and everyday lives. What is it about this age-old technique that has captured the attention of so many?

Today we’re posting an article from our Fall 2013 newsletter Institute News to explore how mindfulness relates to mental health and therapy. Written by The Family Institute’s Director of the Mindfulness and Behavior Therapy Program, Michael Maslar, PsyD, the article defines mindfulness, discusses the ways it can impact health and relationships, and the different therapies that use mindfulness-based principles to help people with a variety of problems.


Mindfulness: Enhancing Lives

Over the last few decades, researchers and therapists have realized the benefits of an age-old meditative practice called mindfulness. We can define this form of mind-body medicine as focusing awareness on the present moment in an accepting way. This simple yet effective way of getting to know ourselves, our behaviors and our relationships more intimately can have important effects. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can have a range of physical and psychological benefits including reduced stress, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and chronic pain.

Mindfulness practice can also improve relationships. Increased marital satisfaction, better communication, improved empathy and compassion, increased acceptance, better awareness of interactional patterns, a deeper sense of safety in relationships, and increased experience of unity with others have all been associated with mindfulness.

Here at The Family Institute, we offer a number of therapies that use mindfulness practice, behavioral skills derived from mindfulness, and principles based in mindfulness to help people with a variety of problems.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches people a collection of behavioral skills to address multiple, complex problems that have not responded well to other therapies, including self-injury, suicidality, eating disorders and depression.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) helps people live life more full in the present moment, be better able to act on important values, and be less focused on painful thoughts and feelings. ACT is an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, among other problems.

In our own research, we have found family-based DBT can help teenagers with multiple problems and their parents reduce their symptoms. In another study, groups of dementia patients and their caregivers who learned mindfulness practice showed reduced depression and stress, and improved quality of life.

Together, Mindfulness and Behavioral Therapies help to enhance the lives of individuals, families, and couples struggling to cope with intense emotions and impulsive or difficult-to-control behaviors.


For more information on the Mindfulness and Behavior Therapies Program at The Family Institute, please visit our website.

The Family Institute also offers two continuing education programs involving mindfulness:

Advanced Intensive Training in Dialectical Behavior Therapy: This intensive, three-day training will take place Wednesday, July 23rd through Friday, July 25th. Training includes:

  • Strengthening Skills for Teaching DBT Skills in Group
  • Treating Secondary Emotions and Emotion Dys-Regulation
  • Targeting Shame and Self-Criticism
  • Strengthening Skills for Weaving DBT Skills into Individual Therapy
  • Including Parents and Partners in Treatment
  • Targeting Teammate Therapy-Interfering Behaviors in Consultation Team

Visit our webpage for more information.

Cultivating Wisdom in Relationships: The Mindfulness & Behavior Therapies program at The Family Institute at Northwestern University and the Family Action Network (FAN) are proud to present this Insight Dialogue Retreat, the first of its kind in Chicago.

Date: June 17-22, 2014

Time: Check-in for this 5-day residential retreat will begin on June 17 at 4:00 p.m. On June 22, the last session ends at 12:00 p.m., followed by lunch and check-out by 1:00 p.m.
Location: Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center, 513 W. Fullerton Parkway, Chicago, IL
Cost: $645 – shared accommodations; $745 – private accommodations
Dana: We invite participants to offer dana (free will donation) at the retreat to support the teacher and the teachings

For more information, contact Michelle Gossett at 847-733-4300, ext. 780 or

One response »

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Increase Your Sense of Mental Wellness for Mental Wellness Month | TFI TALKS

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