Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention for Addictive Behaviors

A Clinician's Guide

Sarah Bowen, Neha Chawla, and G. Alan Marlatt

A Paperback Originale-bookprint + e-book
A Paperback Original
November 9, 2010
ISBN 9781606239872
Price: $41.00 $30.75
179 Pages
Size: 8" x 10½"
April 25, 2011
Price: $41.00 $30.75
179 Pages
print + e-book
A Paperback Original + e-Book (PDF) ?
Price: $82.00 $45.10
179 Pages

This authoritative book presents an innovative relapse prevention program that integrates mindfulness practices with evidence-based cognitive and behavioral strategies. Clinicians get essential information and materials for implementing the approach with their clients. Eight carefully structured group sessions help participants gain awareness of their own inner experiences, step out of habitual patterns of thought and behavior that can trigger relapse, and acquire concrete skills to meet the day-to-day challenges of recovery. In a convenient large-size format, the book includes detailed guidelines for facilitating each session, scripted examples of guided meditations, and more than 20 reproducible handouts. Purchasers get access to a Web page where they can download and print the reproducible materials.

“The detailed session guides in this manual are very helpful. Each begins with a box containing a list of needed materials, the theme for the session, goals, and a detailed outline. In addition, each session has practice guidelines for the in-session exercises, sample dialogue between the facilitator and participants, and tracking forms for the home practice exercises. There is also information on topics that are clearly drawn from experience practicing mindfulness and delivering the program, including how to discuss common reactions to the mindfulness exercises, including sleepiness, agitation, thought wandering, and emotions. Facilitators who have the recommended experience with their own mindfulness practice should be able to pick this book up and start conducting the sessions....Well worth the read for psychologists interested in mindfulness in general or its application to addiction treatment specifically. It provides an excellent example of a manual-guided approach to mindfulness training that can be used in clinical practice and evaluated in research studies.”


“As any addictions treatment practitioner will tell you, what happens after a person commits to changing addictive behaviors is critical. Bowen, Chawla, and Marlatt step boldly into the arena of habitual behavior, reactivity to cues, urges, craving, and relapse with a potent tool: nonjudgmental mindful awareness. This excellent book integrates two rich traditions—mindfulness and relapse prevention—into a promising new clinical approach. Like a well-tuned GPS, the book helps professionals navigate each session, providing clear guidelines, suggested scripts, excellent clinical dialogues, home practice assignments, and troubleshooting tips.”

—David B. Rosengren, PhD, President, Prevention Research Institute, Lexington, Kentucky

“Here is a book that contains both an evidence-based program and an invitation to explore a wholly new way of dealing with addictive feelings and behaviors. It is based on many years of painstaking research on the factors that help or hinder the long journey to recovery after addiction. It explains in helpful detail the demands and huge potential of the mindfulness approach for clinicians and clients. This book will be an inspiration to all who read it, and transformative for those who practice it.”

—Mark Williams, DPhil, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

“I’m very impressed by the systematic approach to recovery that Bowen et al. offer. This book gives clear guidance on how to blend mindfulness, a sometimes vague topic, with addiction treatment, a notoriously slippery enterprise. The result is an invaluable resource, well researched and practically oriented. I’ll be using this book in my own teaching.”

—Kevin Griffin, author of One Breath at a Time

“Mindfulness is the single most powerful tool available for those seeking freedom from addiction. Drawing on their notable wealth of research and clinical experience, Bowen et al. have created a groundbreaking relapse prevention program. For any therapist drawn to the practice of mindfulness, this guide provides a clear, accessible, and sensitive way to engage clients in a process of deep transformation and healing.”

—Tara Brach, PhD, author of Radical Acceptance

Table of Contents


Part I. Conducting Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention

Part II. Facilitator’s Guide

Session 1: Automatic Pilot and Relapse

Session 2: Awareness of Triggers and Craving

Session 3: Mindfulness in Daily Life

Session 4: Mindfulness in High-Risk Situations

Session 5: Acceptance and Skillful Action

Session 6: Seeing Thoughts as Thoughts

Session 7: Self-Care and Lifestyle Balance

Session 8: Social Support and Continuing Practice

About the Authors

Sarah Bowen, PhD, is a research scientist and therapist in the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, where she specializes in mindfulness practice for the treatment of addictive behaviors. Her research has focused specifically on mechanisms of change, including negative affect, thought suppression, and craving. She is particularly interested in the application of mindfulness-based work to dual-diagnosis populations. Dr. Bowen has co-facilitated mindfulness-based relapse prevention groups in numerous settings, including private and county treatment agencies and the VA Medical Center in Seattle. She also presents, consults, and teaches on the use of mindfulness-based treatment for substance use disorders.

Neha Chawla, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on the development and evaluation of mindfulness-based treatments for substance use disorders, issues related to therapist training and dissemination, and the assessment of therapist competence. Dr. Chawla has facilitated numerous mindfulness-based relapse prevention groups in private and community treatment settings in Seattle and on the East Coast, and has co-led several therapist training workshops.

G. Alan Marlatt, PhD, until his death in 2011, was Director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center and Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. For over 30 years, Dr. Marlatt conducted pioneering work on understanding and preventing relapse in substance abuse treatment and was a leading proponent of the harm reduction approach to treating addictive behaviors. He was a recipient of honors including the Jellinek Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to knowledge in the field of alcohol studies, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Award, the Research Society on Alcoholism's Distinguished Researcher Award, and the Career/Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.


Clinical psychologists, social workers, substance abuse counselors, and other clinicians who treat clients with addiction and substance use problems.