Allowing and letting be

Intentions and notes

The intention for this group is to help people understand that being with experience, mindfully, can help them to make wiser choices. Therefore it’s helpful to start with the ABC introduction of mindfulness: We deliberately keep returning our Attention non-judgmentally to an anchor in the present moment, in order to learn to Be with whatever arises, both pleasant and unpleasant. This reduces the need to chase the pleasant and avoid the unpleasant, so helps us make wiser Choices – and reduces the need for substances.

Walking is the suggested meditation, more to give a balanced variety of different meditations throughout the course than for any reason linked to the exercise, so do feel free to do whichever meditation you think.

The vicious flower is a well-known exercise from CBT, and was adapted by Melanie Fennell for mindfulness-based approaches; it is sometimes used in adapted MBCT courses. I have put in the breathing space instead of ‘mindful awareness’ as suggested by her, in order to give more focus for people at this early stage in recovery. As the SOBER breathing space is practised regularly in class, suggesting they practise a familiar, structured exercise when struggling may help – though you could also mention that they can simply explore in the body, or even bring mindfulness awareness to their experience if you have more experienced, motivated participants present.

And then at the end of the exercise you can bring it back to the ABC – where they can see they have learned a useful tool which can help them change their behaviours, by accepting their experience!

The Responding vs Reacting chiasmus (see below) is a useful thing to put on the board if people don’t get the difference – it’s quite punchy and easy to remember.

Responding: Thinking before Acting

Reacting: Acting before Thinking


  • Download the group outline and handout here.


  • Title and running order of group
  • Blank for vicious flower
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