This ‘body awareness’ training cuts relapse rate

A new type of body awareness training helps women recover from drug addiction, according to new research.

The women made marked improvements, and many of those improvements lasted for more than a year, the researchers say.

It’s the first time researchers studied the mindfulness approach in a large randomized trial as an adjunct treatment. The training helps people better understand the physical and emotional signals in their body and how they can respond to these to help them better regulate and engage in self-care.

“We could teach this intervention successfully in eight weeks to a very distressed population, and participants not only really learned these skills, they maintained increases in body awareness and regulation over the yearlong study period,” says lead author Cynthia J. Price, a research associate professor in the University of Washington School of Nursing.

“The majority of participants also reported consistent use of MABT skills, on a weekly basis, over the duration of the study.”

Women who used the skills learned in the MABT, or Mindful Awareness in Body-oriented Therapy,  intervention showed less relapse to drug and alcohol use compared to those who didn’t receive the intervention, Price says.

The training included one-on-one coaching in an outpatient setting, in addition to the substance use disorder treatment the women were already receiving. The MABT intervention combines manual, mindfulness, and psycho-educational approaches to teach interoceptive awareness and related self-care skills. Interoceptive awareness is the ability to access and process sensory information from the body.

The study, which appears in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, included 187 women at three Seattle-area locations. Researchers split the cohort, all women in treatment for substance use disorder, into three relatively equal groups.

Every group continued with their regular substance use disorder treatment. One group received substance use disorder treatment only, another group learned the mindfulness technique in addition to treatment, and the third group received a women’s education curriculum in addition to treatment in order to test whether the additional time and attention explained any positive study outcomes.

Researchers tested the women at the beginning, and at 3, 6, and 12 months on a number of factors including substance use, distress craving, emotion regulation (self-report and psychophysiology), mindfulness skills, and interoceptive awareness. Women who received the MABT intervention showed lasting improvements. Women in the other two study groups did not.

“Those who received MABT relapsed less,” Price says. “By learning to attend to their bodies, they learned important skills for better self-care.”

Additional coauthors are from the University of Washington and the University of Utah. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health funded the work.

Source: University of Washington