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What is Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)?

Written on April 22, 2022
What is Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)?

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a set of evidence-based tools to aide in maintaining long-term recovery from addiction.

How Does Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Work?

In its most basic form, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) or “urge surfing,” is used to help prevent individuals in early recovery from relapsing. Dr. Alan Marlatt and his team started researching this idea in 1985 in their lab at the University of Washington. The idea is simple. When individuals leave addiction treatment, they are highly susceptible to falling back into their addictive behaviors. It takes time to practice and implement the therapeutic skills you learned in your addiction treatment program.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention was developed to help the individual manage their automatic response to give into triggers and cravings. Rather than try to suppress or avoid cravings, Dr. Marlatt and his team suggest individuals should surf these urges and mindfully explore them. Exploration without physical reaction does a few things.

First, it allows someone to erase the notion that experiences and emotions must be positive. Unfortunately, life creates a lot of discomfort and hardship. It’s imperative that people in all stages of recovery learn to work through difficult moments in life. Secondly, it teaches people to react to triggering situations in ways that serve them. All too often, people make a bad situation worse by overreacting or reacting at all to a situation.

On a similar note, there’s only so much control you have over any given experience. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention teaches its students to stop and reflect on the situation at hand. In this moment, it allows people to exact their control over themselves rather than try to influence and change what is happening.

Ultimately, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention provides critical time between the onset of a craving and acting on it. Since most cravings subside within 20 minutes, this practice is critical in helping someone overcome their impulsive automatic response to a craving.

Is MBRP Actually Effective?

The most obvious thing you’re probably saying to yourself is, “this all sounds great, but does it work?” The team that worked with Dr. Marlatt thought the same thing. In 2009, his team researched the efficacy of MBRP as a treatment approach. The results of this study suggested that MBRP is an effective aftercare approach for people who have recently finished intensive treatment for substance use programs. As of today, many outpatient programs utilize this therapeutic modality to strengthen their clients’ relapse prevention protocol.

At Flatirons Recovery, we’ve incorporated mindfulness practices into the fabric of our treatment program. We thoroughly believe that practices like Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention are critical to maintaining sobriety in early recovery. If you have any questions about our practice and methodology, please contact us to learn more.