Contextual approaches to hypnosis are present-focused. They don’t search for a cause, but rather they train the client in a new skill, the skill of acceptance. While many traditional approaches to hypnosis have dwelled on the past trauma, the foundation for Contextual Hypnotherapy is helping our clients to live fully in the present.
Mindfulness is an important skill taught to clients. With the vast majority of my clients, I teach them a basic strategy for Mindfulness within the first thirty minutes of the first session.
Interestingly, the importance of Mindfulness is not usually obvious to my clients during the first session. None of them say, “Wow, that was incredible, Richard. That was the most awesome experience I’ve ever had.” In fact, when I’m done in that first session teaching them a basic strategy for Mindfulness, they almost always respond with, “Well, I guess that was relaxing,” or “Uh-huh, I guess I can see how that could be helpful.”
The value in Mindfulness is not in guiding a client through a basic process in our office. The value of Mindfulness is in teaching them a skill that they will practice on their own between sessions so that they cultivate living fully in the present.
In the second, third, or fourth session when they come back, there comes a point when they say, “Because I’ve been practicing everyday, I now recognize why the first session was so important. I’m actually living mindfully. In situations where I used to automatically become anxious, I am automatically being mindful. In situations where I would respond with an impulsive behavior, I’m responding with mindful awareness.”
So it’s important to keep in mind that Mindfulness exercises are not the point. Learning to live mindfully is the point. Here are some definitions of Mindfulness:
- Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
- Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way on purpose to the present moment and nonjudgmentally.
- The first component of Mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention so that it’s maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation towards one’s experience in the present moment.
- An orientation characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
The last one is really my favorite definition of Mindfulness because I think it describes fully what my clients need to know in order to experience change in therapy.
The idea of Mindfulness and staying in the moment might sound simple, but these are skills that need to be taught to a client. It is not something that happens organically just because they come to therapy each week. A big part of the homework that I assign to my clients is to practice two minutes of Mindfulness with intention each and every day between now and their next session. By the way, that’s that great thing about Mindfulness. It’s not about meditating for thirty minutes while assuming funny postures or wearing funny clothes. In fact, a person doesn’t even need to be still in order to practice Mindfulness.
 Steven C. Hayes, Kirk Strosahl, and Kelly G. Wilson, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy : The Process and Practice of Mindful Change, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2012).
 William R. Miller, Integrating Spirituality into Treatment : Resources for Practitioners, 1st ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999).
 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are : Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, 1st ed. (New York: Hyperion, 1994).
 Scott Bishop et al., “Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition,” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 11, no. 3 (2004).