Dissociation is a set of disabling symptoms characterized by disruption in cognitive and sensory experience, found in various psychiatric disorders. Dissociation increases risk of dangerous behaviors (e.g., self-injury, suicidality, binging and purging) and interferes with the effectiveness of psychiatric treatment. Dissociation involves retreating from experience of the present moment; in contrast, mindfulness practice trains individuals to be intentionally aware of present moment experiences. Thus, mindfulness training may be uniquely well suited for treating dissociation.
The aim of this project is to assess the effectiveness of mindfulness-based intervention at reducing dissociation. Individuals will be randomly assigned to one of two mindfulness conditions (mindfulness of internal experiences or external experiences), or to an active control group. We hypothesize that the treatment conditions will have different effects, with the internal mindfulness practices enhancing awareness of and connection to the body, and the external mindfulness practices enhancing awareness of the surroundings, and that both will enhance attentional abilities. We will assess change in these constructs in relation to change in different types of dissociative symptoms. This trial addresses the need for validated interventions for dissociation while also elucidating the mechanisms by which various practices improve dissociative symptoms and related outcomes.