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Being With Difficulty (Audio)

Being With Difficulty is a mindfulness exercise which gently brings present-moment awareness to bear upon thoughts and feelings that are more difficult or distressing. In this practice you are encouraged to bring an unsettling situation to mind, and practice attending to the difficulty as it is experienced in your body, rather than by over-thinking. This audio exercise can be used during clinical sessions, or prescribed as self-practice to complement clinical work and to develop a client’s personal practice.

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Audio track (MP3)

A therapy audio track designed for skills development.

Audio script (PDF)

The script for a therapy audio track. Read along with an exercise, or record in your own voice.


Languages this resource is available in

  • English (GB)
  • English (US)

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

Mindfulness-based programs such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT: Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2013) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR: Kabat-Zinn, 1990) have demonstrated beneficial effects for a wide range of psychological disorders, as well as helping people to cope with pain and illness (Goink et al, 2015; Khoury et al, 2013). Mindful awareness exercises form part of treatment approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT: Linehan, 1993) and compassion focused therapy (CFT: Gilbert, 2014). 

Being With Difficulty forms part of the Psychology Tools For Mindfulness Audio Collection, a guided introduction to the practice of mindfulness meditation. A number of therapeutic approaches, notably Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT) encourage the practice of mindfully paying attention to our thoughts and feelings as they arise. This exercise uses gently encourages the participant to bring present-moment awareness to bear upon thoughts and feelings that are more difficult or distressing. By working through the body you are encouraged to explore the difficulty as it presents in the body, rather than becoming entangled in over thinking or rumination. The mindful approach involves turning towards and exploring bodily sensations with curiosity and friendliness. This can in turn support learning to respond wisely to difficulties instead of automatically reacting in habitual ways. 

This audio exercise is designed for anyone who would like to develop their own mindfulness meditation practice. No previous experience with mindfulness is necessary on the part of the client, although best practice is for clinicians to be familiar with mindfulness. In common with other psychological interventions, mindfulness exercises result in clients confronting difficult and potentially distressing thoughts, emotions, and sensations and so care should be taken when prescribing them (Baer et al, 2019).

Therapist Guidance

This audio exercise can be used in session, or prescribed as self-practice to complement clinical work and to develop a client’s mindfulness practice. The audio download is a simple .mp3 file which can be played in most media player apps. You can also download the verbatim script, allowing you to record the exercise for your clients in your own voice to reinforce work completed in therapy.

References And Further Reading

  • Baer, R., Crane, C., Miller, E., & Kuyken, W. (2019). Doing no harm in mindfulness-based programs: conceptual issues and empirical findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 71, 101-114.
  • Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53(1), 6-41.
  • Gotink, R. A., Chu, P., Busschbach, J. J., Benson, H., Fricchione, G. L., & Hunink, M. M. (2015). Standardised mindfulness-based interventions in healthcare: an overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of RCTs. PloS one, 10(4), e0124344.
  • Kabat-Zinn, J., & Hanh, T. N. (2009). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Delta.
  • Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., ... & Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763-771.
  • Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford.
  • Segal, Z. V., & Teasdale, J. (2018). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. Guilford Publications.