Getting out of your head

Intentions and notes

The intention for this group is to explore the SOBER breathing space in some detail, a practice invented for MBRP by Bowen Chawla and Marlatt. This is the backbone of the programme, and is consistently recommended for home practice – hence why if you are running the programme in a specific order it may be a good first one. All the groups start and finish with a SOBER breathing space, and many mention taking a breathing space as a way of taking a moment to compose oneself before acting, so it is important to investigate this practice.

As well as being a good first group, it can help those who have been doing the programme for longer to really understand this fundamental practice on a deeper level, with the benefit of having practised it regularly (at least twice weekly in group, even if they haven’t been doing it as home practice). It may therefore help to bolster motivation to practise it more for these people.

As the breathing space can be any length, from three breaths to three quarters of an hour, the recommended practice for this group is a longer breathing space; this also gives the opportunity to explore other anchors instead of the breath, in case anyone finds it difficult to connect to the breath (this has come up less frequently than I expected in group). For these people it can be helpful to explain that the breath is shorthand for focusing on any specific area of the body – both that SOFER (using Feet for example) just doesn’t work!

It may be helpful to explain mindfulness using the ABC approach at the beginning, so that later, during the exercise you can point out we are choosing to place our Attention from wide awareness → focused attention → widening out again, and linking this to the ability to Be with experience and therefore help us make wiser Choices. I find this explanation, an explicit description of the process, increases motivation for practice, as it helps people to see the mechanics of how mindfulness can help them. Also, exploring how amazing it is that the simple act of deliberately bringing the attention back can lead to such changes! And here we have a short, simple template for how to do this. But always emphasising that they need to experiment for themselves – many people over thousands of years have found their lives changing for the better due to doing this sort of thing, but they are the only one who can know what will happen for them.

It is important that participants have access to audio versions of breathing spaces that they can use for practice after the session, and the visual representation of the hourglass is aimed to help them remember the expansive start, focused middle, and expanding ending, so if you can get a colour copy of this for them to keep then great. The ABC is also a useful reference – and great if you can get these A5 handouts laminated!


  • Download the group outline here.
  • Download the SOBER Breathing Space handout here.


  • Title and running order of group
  • Blank one for SOBER Breathing Space
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