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Recovery Tool: Mindfulness & Self-Awareness Acronym's

Here are 10 acronyms to promote decision-making, mindfulness, and broader self-awareness with young people. The first 6 promote mindful awareness for decision-making abilities, while the last 4 promote general and specific areas of self-awareness.


1) STOP

STOP stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed. This comes from the popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) literature and is probably the most widely known. The first step is to actually stop what one is doing (e.g., if you’re moving, stop moving, if your mind is racing, tell yourself to stop, etc.). Next comes the “T” and take a breath and pause. The “O” is the observing of one’s experience (e.g., noticing anger, frustration, pain, etc.), and finally the “P” suggests you proceed with a next step that you see fit after pausing and checking in with yourself. The below acronyms follow similar processes.


2) TAP

TAP stands for Take a breath, Acknowledge, and Proceed. This is a technique I often teach to adults working with youth to manage their own stress/frustration/discomfort when working with youth in our Trauma-Informed Care for Professionals Working With Youth online course and MBSAT Training. While the “T” and “P” relate to the above STOP, the “A” represents the ability to acknowledge one’s experience (e.g., “I’m frustrated right now”) and the ability to acknowledge another’s experience (to empathize) if the experience has to do with another person (as it mainly does for teachers, counselors, etc.).


3) SOBER

SOBER stands for Stop, Observe, Breath, Expand, and Respond. This was developed by Sarah Bowen and Alan Marlatt in the Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) curriculum, which is in part based on MBSR and is great to teach youth who are wanting to stay sober from substances.


4) STIC

STIC stands for Stop, Take a breath, Imagine the future consequences, and Choose. My colleague Steven Saul created this for our MBSAT 12-Session Curriculum with the idea of helping youth “STIC to their plan” for transforming their lives when they were released from custody.


5) PEACE

PEACE stands for Pause, Exhale, Acknowledge, Choose, and Engage. This was developed Amy Saltzman, MD as a part of her Still Quiet Place curriculum.


6) RAIN

RAIN stands for Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-Identification. To my knowledge this was created by Tara Brach and is a great way to teach youth that they are not their thoughts and feelings (e.g., dis-identification).


7) COAL

COAL stands for Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance, and Love. This was created by Dan Siegel and is a great way for youth to remind themselves of the power of love and acceptance. Though a practice like this isn’t for everyone, I’ve used similar practices with traumatized and incarcerated youth and have seen positive results.


8) SIFT

This is another of Dan Siegel’s acronyms (he likes acronyms!). SIFT stands for Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts. This is great technique for youth to scan and get acquainted with their subjective experience.

Source: Himelstein, S. (2020). Sam Himelstein, Ph.D. Retrieved June 29, 2020, from https://centerforadolescentstudies.com/10-acronyms-promote-self-awareness-decision-making-youth/


Photo credit: https://medium.com/pinkdialogues/surround-yourself-with-positivity-bb3dbe81417a

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