MBCT is an alternative approach to depression treatment, specifically recurrent depression. Patients who do not respond to medications or more conventional therapies may find relief through MBCT

MBCT involves accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment rather than trying to push them out of consciousness, with a goal of correcting cognitive distortions.

MBCT focuses on targeting negative thinking and aims to help people who are very vulnerable to recurring depression stop depressed moods from spiraling out of control into a full episode of depression. MBCT helps patients to understand how depression affects them and to identify when their mood begins to spiral downward. The patient will understand what makes them vulnerable to depression and learn how to counteract the downward spiral of emotions before it can affect their lives.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is used to treat the following conditions:

  • Chronic pain
  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and panic disorder

MBCT can be used to help people, who have experienced depression, to prevent a relapse into depression. Depression impacts an estimated 15 million adults in the United States. Depression is a state of prolonged low mood and aversion to activity. A person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being are affected and may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, or restlessness.

MBCT programs usually consist of eight weekly two-hour classes with weekly assignments to be done outside of session. The aim of the program is to enhance awareness so clients are able to respond to things instead of react to them. It focuses on targeting negative thinking and aims to help people who are very vulnerable to recurring depression stop depressed moods from spiraling out of control into a full episode of depression.

MBCT helps patients to see how their mind works and to understand the patterns their mind uses. By understanding these patterns the patient can begin to identify when their mood begins to spiral downward and learn how to counteract the downward spiral before it can have substantial effects. 

MBCT works with patients to prevent them from suppressing the symptoms that often lead to depression. MBCT helps patients to grow their ability to experience the negative emotions that often cause depression. By approaching these emotions and working to see them from a different perspective, patients of MBCT can develop a more positive outlook on the negative emotions. 

Pros for this therapy

MBCT prioritizes learning how to pay attention or concentrate with purpose, in each moment and most importantly, without judgment. Through mindfulness, clients can recognize that holding onto some of these feelings are ineffective and mentally destructive. Mindfulness is also thought by Fulton et al. to be useful for the therapists as well during therapy sessions. Research has shown that people who have had clinical depression three or more times have considerably reduced the chances that the depression will return after using a MBCT program.

Cons for this therapy 

Very little research has been conducted on MBCT, therefore few cons of the therapy have been found. Research that has been conducted, has resulted in mostly positive findings, however many of the findings have not been able to be contributed to MBCT-specific effects. Further research must be conducted in order to better understand how effective MBCT is.

MBCT was founded by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, who based MBCT on a program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) which was adapted for use with major depressive disorder.

MBCT has evolved from a blend of features of cognitive therapy with mindfulness techniques of Buddhism. MBCT is a relatively recent therapy and as such, is continuing to be explored and evaluated as to its effectiveness.

The books Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2002) and The Mindful Way Through Depression (2007) provide more information on the history of MBCT and how it works. 

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is psychological therapy which blends features of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing thoughts in order to change behaviors, with the meditative mindfulness techniques of Buddhism, which involves the process of identifying thoughts on a moment to moment basis.

The aim of MBCT is not directly to relaxation or happiness in themselves, but rather, a "freedom from the tendency to get drawn into automatic reactions to thoughts, feelings, and events". MBCT programs usually consist of eight weekly two-hour classes with weekly assignments to be done outside of session. The aim of the program is to enhance awareness so clients are able to respond to things instead of react to them.

Review Date: 
February 15, 2012
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