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The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice
Mindfulness
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2013
Pages: 394 - 401
Source ID: shanti-sources-53451
Abstract: The body scan is a somatically oriented, attention-focusing practice first introduced into clinical practice as part of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the MBSR program brings together a range of techniques and practices unified by a common theme — that of cultivating mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined predominantly as moment-by-moment attention focused in the present, in a nonjudgmental manner (Kabat-Zinn 1990). Described as a “clinic, in the form of an 8-week course” (Kabat-Zinn 2003, p. 149), MBSR has been adapted for various clinical populations, including individuals with eating disorders (Kristeller and Hallett 1999) anxiety (Kabat-Zinn et al. 1992), cancer (Speca, Carlson, Goodey & Angen, 2000; Lengacher et al. 2009), chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn, Lipworth, & Burney, 1985) and fibromyalgia (Sephton et al. 2007). MBSR was also the inspiration for a well-validated clinical intervention for depression: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), developed by Segal, Williams, and Teasdale (2013).The MBSR program typically consists of an introductory informational meeting followed by eight, 2½-h group meetings with an all-day retreat on the weekend of the sixth week (Kabat-Zinn 1990). Participants are expected to commit to 45 min of home practice, 6 days of the week for the entire 8-week program. As the first formal home practice, the body scan is frequently participants’ initial encounter with mindfulness. Though the body scan serves as a foundation for all subsequent practices in the MBSR program, it has received remarkably little individualized attention. This relative lack of theoretical exploration may be an artifact of what McCown, Reibel and Micozzi (2010) note as a tendency of MBSR scholars to favor sitting meditation over other forms of practice. Whatever the reason, little has been written on the body scan in terms of its background, unique clinical contributions, and prospects for expanded clinical use. In this article we consider each of these facets in turn, with the intention of locating the body scan in the broader spectrum of clinical psychology practice.