Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is psychological therapy that is designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with Major depressive disorder. It utilizes traditional Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) methods which include educating the participant about depression and adds in newer psychological strategies, like mindfulness and mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation practices, focus on helping us to become aware of our incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, rather than attaching or reacting to them. Like CBT, MBCT functions on the theory that when individuals who have historically had depression become distressed, they return back to automatic cognitive processes that can trigger a depressive episode. The goal of MBCT is to interrupt these automatic processes and teach the participants to focus less on reacting to incoming stimuli, and instead accepting and observing them without judgment. This mindfulness practice allows the participant to notice when automatic processes are occurring and to alter their reaction to be more of a reflection. Research supports the effects of MBCT in people who have been depressed three or more times and demonstrates reduced relapse rates by 50%.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an innovative program designed to prevent relapse in people who have recovered from unipolar depression. Based on the research of Drs. Zindel Segal, John Teasdale, and Mark Williams, and documented in their book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, the programs combine the practice and clinical application of mindfulness meditation with the tools of cognitive therapy. Workshops emphasizes the importance of the clinician’s own meditation practice and self-inquiry, especially how to bring self-knowledge gained through sustained meditative practice to bear on helping clients in emotional distress.
The heart of this work lies in encountering those modes of mind that often characterize mood disorders, while simultaneously learning to develop a new relationship to these modes. Programs explore through role-plays, simulated classroom, and patient-practitioner encounters, the actual application of mindfulness practices in teaching MBCT to clients. MBCT courses also mix didactic, experiential, and small group learning, and include daily meditations, yoga, and periods of silence.
Mindfulness based approaches such as those used in MBCT emphasize loving kindness, self-acceptance and patience. They can help us learn simple, practical skills which can help us find calm and stability in our relationships with ourselves and others in the midst of our busy, stressful lives.
Recommended reading on MBCT
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse, by Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, John D. Teasdale. Guilford Press, 2002. ISBN 1-57230-706-4.
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams & Dr Danny Penman” Piatkus, 2011
Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: clinician’s guide to evidence base and applications, by Ruth A. Baer. Academic Press, 2006. ISBN 0-12-088519-0.