What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

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 (MDD). It utilizes traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods and adds in newer psychological strategies, like mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. Cognitive methods could include educating the participant about depression. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them.


Mindfulness-based approaches have been shown to help increase emotional regulation in people with many different psychological issues, including, drinking problems, suicidal ideation, gambling addiction, self-harm behaviors, depression, anxiety, and many others. One of the many benefits of mindfulness therapy is that it can address multiple issues at a time. Individuals who have addictions often pick up a new behavior when they let go of their addiction. For example, people who quit smoking might then struggle with overeating. For these people, mindfulness can help with both the abstinence and the new maladaptive coping strategy.


This therapy was created by Zendel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, and was based on of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, developed by John Kabat-Zinn. Theories behind these mindfulness-based approaches to psychological issues function on the idea that being aware of things in the present, and not focusing on the past or the future, will allow the client to be more apt to deal with current stressors and distressing feelings with a flexible and accepting mindset, rather than avoiding, and, therefore, prolonging them.


Mindfulness therapy encourages patients to focus on their breathing and their body, to notice but not judge their thoughts and to generally live in the moment. It may sound a bit squishy and New Agey to some, but I believe and experts say mindfulness has something that discredited theories of the past never had: solid evidence that it can help.


“It’s pretty clear that people can improve their health if they can encourage this practice in their lives,” said David Fresco, an associate professor of psychology at Kent State University in Ohio. “But we have to be careful not to move beyond the data too quickly.”


Fresco warns that mindfulness treatment is unlikely to help someone suffering from severe and ongoing depression. Those patients, he said, need a more active approach to recovery, perhaps including antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of counseling that encourages patients to question the validity of their negative thoughts.


Once recovery from depression begins, however, mindfulness therapy could provide a valuable defense against future episodes, said Zindel Segal, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto who was one of the pioneers behind…

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