Teaching the Programme

Each of these groups is designed to work as a stand-alone session, so you can choose whatever seems most appropriate for the group that day, what fits in with other work the group may have been doing, or what resonates with you at that time. It’s therefore a good idea to keep a record of what you’re doing, so you can ensure you’re getting a good balance over the weeks (see the record sheet). Having said that, the groups are ordered into what might be an effective running order, so if you’re not sure where to start, try Getting Out of Your Head.

It is vital that you have a daily mindfulness practice yourself if you run this course, as this is crucial in ensuring you can empathise with participants when they talk about their experiences – it also ensures you have more potency when running the group, as you are talking from a place of personal experience. In the same way, experience of addictions work is fundamental, while personal experience can lend added authenticity, if used appropriately.

It’s also important that you have a chance to discuss the groups in supervision with someone experienced in both addiction work and mindfulness, so that you can ensure you’re staying on track and can discuss any difficulties.

The course is perhaps more didactic and guided than some other mindfulness courses – it’s been suggested this is more effective with groups early in recovery. It was also written for a residential setting where participants are all doing other groups together the rest of the time, and will be at different stages in their detoxes: all settings are different, so you may want to adapt this to suit your place of work, for example using more pairs work if the participants do not already know each other.

Choice is a theme that winds through this course – from an engagement and safety point of view it needs to be made explicit that participants have choice and freedom within the group (even more so if the group is mandatory, as it is where the programme has been developed), and emphasising that you are not teaching ‘the right way to overcome addiction’, but exploring something people may want to investigate more.

It’s easy to get hung up on ensuring that participants learn particular things from each class – but remember that whatever comes up for each person is what they’re ready to learn at the time. It doesn’t matter if all or none of the learning points are brought up or – what is important is that people are participating and learning how to get acquainted with their own experience. So treat each inquiry as helping you to explore experience with participants, and don’t get too attached to the learning outcomes. People will surprise you with all sorts of left-field comments, some extremely insightful!

Model the attitudinal foundations as best you can and be open to whatever the participants bring up – not everyone will go away with an immediate love of mindfulness (though some will!). If participants go away remembering mindfulness classes as interesting and enjoyable sessions where their suffering was met with kindness, they will be more likely to want to revisit it in future. So let your passion for the subject shine through, and enjoy it!

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