While behaviorism offers effective approaches to behavior change, it operates from an understanding of contingencies in the external environment as the primary agent in shaping behavior. Through integration of contemplative practice into contemporary behavior change technologies, we can expand our understanding of “environment” to include our internal landscape, and our interaction with, versus mere reaction to, stimuli. Rather than merely being subject to conditioned responses, we can learn to experience stimuli with awareness, and interact skillfully with aspects that may typically control behavior. We can thus shape both our internal environments and our responses such that, while still living in the natural system of contingency-shaped behavior, we have agency over the conditioning processes and consequents. The potential dangers of contingency-shaped behaviors, if untrained, are evident in almost all of our daily experiences to some extent. They are clearly and painfully illustrated, however, in addictive behaviors. Through the combined lenses of behaviorism and mindfulness practice, this presentation will look at the initiating and maintaining factors in addiction. Recently, several effective clinical approaches have emerged that integrate behavioral- and contemplative-based practices to train awareness of these processes, and reshape our internal environments and responses to conditioning. Such training can use the natural laws of human behavior, with approaches such as mindfulness-based exposure/response prevention, to our advantage, to support sustainable change. Illustrative examples and evidence of these processes from recent clinical trials will be shared.
Sarah Bowen, PhD
Sarah Bowen is an assistant professor of psychology at Pacific University in Portland, OR. Her research and clinical work has focused primarily on integrating meditation practice and mindfulness-based approaches traditional … MORE