Meditation Apps…

I am a devotee and daily user of the free Insight Timer meditation app providing as it does a timer for silent meditation practice – with a choice of bells and gongs! As a therapist and teacher I regularly recommend it for its guided meditations. The caveat with the app for beginners is that they should first use the guided content before moving to silent timed practices. My own experience of a busy chattering mind is that being asked to sit in silence and stay anchored to the breath for even five minutes, is quite an ask and should only be tackled with guidance and supervision as you begin your own practice. The app I then to use for guided content is 10%Happier. I read Dan Harris’s book ‘10% Happier’, love the Podcast finding his mix of cynicism and an earnest desire to engage with mindfulness meditation and the mindfulness community, a compelling reason to pay for the app!

The issue of mindfulness apps and their sensitivity to trauma wasn’t something I had given much thought to. However it was the December topic on the Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness webinar hosted by the marvellous David Treleaven. I found the webinars after reading Treleaven’s excellent book ‘Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness’. This was a game-changer for me in how I viewed my practice as a teacher of meditation. Given that mindfulness requires that we pay attention to our experiences as they arise and given that most of us, and particularly those with trauma spend much psychological energy AVOIDING these experiences, it is not a stretch to see that asking people with trauma to pay attention in this way, may trigger overwhelm and distress. Mindfulness meditation has the potential to re-traumatise people and Treleaven shares his own experience of this in his book. Trauma is often undiagnosed in the general population. Apps then, have the potential, given their general accessibility to do more harm than good.

The webinar was really helpful. David had scored ten of the main meditation apps for trauma sensitivity: did they contain a disclaimer about adverse reactions to meditation: do they provide a way for users to self-monitor, to check in with how they are feeling; and importantly what to do if the user does become triggered and overwhelmed. He also rates for Covi9-19 specific content, which given the impact the pandemic will be having on mental health does seem a good to rate for.

Sadly the 10% Happier app didn’t score well for trauma sensitivity nor did Insight Timer but I guess I’m covered because I know my clients and can share safely with them. However I’m about to work again in a teaching setting with professionals affected the Covid-19 pandemic and I won’t know my participants as well. So, I’m currently reviewing in more detail an app recommended by Treleaven called ‘Am’ from Mobio Interactive. I’m about 3 of 12 stages through a ‘Journey’ called ‘Flip Side’ which seeks to support me to “Internalise and grow from the new reality the Covid-19 has thrust upon us”. So far there has been a fair amount of ‘checking in’ and I’m hopeful that this will be one that I can safely recommend to support those folk coming for training in March.


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