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Are you interested in mindfulness? Need help with depression and negative thinking? Would you like to find a practical therapy that can help you? You might be a good candidate for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

How does Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy work?

We train our focus to be in the present moment, away from the worries and regrets running through our minds.  

The term ‘cognitive’ refers to our mental processes. It is the goal of cognitive therapies like CBT to identify and change dysfunctional thinking patterns and the unhelpful behaviors and emotional responses they are related to. 

It is a combination of both of these approaches that is called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Using acceptance and awareness, you can change your thinking, make better choices for yourself, and experience better moods.

Mindfulness sounds like meditation, doesn’t it?  

You and your Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy therapist might decide to incorporate mindfulness into your sessions.

But mindfulness, or being present-focused, simply refers to a state of being we can bring to each moment. According to research, it helps with coping and general wellbeing on a daily basis.

Mindfulness therapy teaches us to let negative feelings, sensations, and thoughts drift in without reacting or fighting them. Focusing on each moment without judgement and recognizing that holding on to negative feelings is counterproductive is the goal.

What is the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy process?

Using cognitive methods and mindfulness meditation, people can learn how to interrupt the automatic processes that trigger depression. During an episode of depression, low mood, negative thoughts, and body sensations such as fatigue and sluggishness often occur together.

Even after the episode passes, connections may still exist between the different symptoms, and a small negative stimulus may trigger a large downward spiral: People with a history of depression may experience low mood as well as negative memories and thoughts from the past, which may, in turn, lead to worries about the future and physical sensations such as fatigue when experiencing a low mood.

As participants learn to distinguish themselves from their thoughts and moods through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, they are able to recognize their sense of self. It is through this disconnect that people can be liberated from negative thought patterns that repeat themselves repeatedly. 

When people in treatment become aware of the separation between thoughts, emotions, and the self, they may discover that while the self and emotions exist simultaneously, they are not necessarily in the same realm. Positive thoughts can be introduced into negative moods in order to disarm them, and this insight can contribute to healing. 

As a general rule, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy provides participants with the necessary tools to combat depressive symptoms. Those who learn these skills may then be able to use them in times of distress or when facing potentially overwhelming situations.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Techniques

A weekly group treatment program is delivered over the course of eight weeks. Each session lasts two hours, but students must also complete 45-minute homework assignment six days a week. Participants practice mindfulness meditation and listen to audio recordings as homework. As part of the treatment process, people are also introduced to a technique called the three-minute breathing space. Using this technique, participants are encouraged to incorporate formal practice into their daily lives. 

In general, mindfulness refers to the development of awareness of what is going on within one’s mind and body in a nonjudgmental manner, even though there is no consensus regarding how mindfulness should be defined. Meditation techniques such as breathing meditations, sitting meditations, body scan meditations, and walking meditations may help improve mindfulness. People receiving Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy are also taught cognitive concepts, such as the relationship between thoughts and feelings, and are often able to gain a deeper understanding of depression as well.

Area of treatment with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Several studies have linked mindfulness to decreased depression and anxiety, and mindfulness is believed to promote good health. Mindfulness-promoting activities have thus been incorporated into therapy sessions by many mental health professionals, and these activities have been proven to reduce depression symptoms, reduce stress, and improve emotional control, regardless of the specific issues being addressed.  

In particular, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy can be used as a primary treatment or in combination with other therapies. As well as treating certain medical concerns, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy may also benefit individuals: According to a 2013 study of 33 women with fibromyalgia, those who received Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy had a significant reduction in the impact of fibromyalgia, a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, and a slight reduction in bodily pain intensity than those who did not receive Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. 

Researchers have also shown individuals with cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, and epilepsy who incorporate Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy into treatment plans may see improvement in well-being.

Numerous randomized controlled trials conducted over the past 15 years have demonstrated that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is an effective treatment for people who have experienced clinical depression three or more times.

 Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy may reduce the rate of relapse by 50% for individuals with recurrent depression. There have been reports of success with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in treating problems other than depression, such as anxiety and mood concerns. A 2014 review of the usefulness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy as a treatment modality found that the approach may be effective in treating issues such as depressive relapse, current depression, residual depression, bipolar, anxiety, eating problems, and psychosis. 

Depression treatment using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy 

In studies, MBCT has consistently been shown to decrease the risk of relapse for people suffering from recurring depression.2

MBCT can also be helpful for:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Manic-depressive disorder
  • Illness-related low moods
  • Thinking negatively.

Is mindfulness therapy available near me?

Choosing a mindfulness-based therapist can be stressful, so we provide you with only carefully vetted, highly experienced mindfulness CBT practitioners, trained at top institutions and with at least five years’ experience.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in London can be booked the Expert therapy, or in the city by phone or online.

How does a session work? 

The therapist will ask targeted questions and then listen carefully to your responses, reflecting back what they hear. However, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is also a very practical form of therapy. Sessions can include exercises and various tools, such as guided meditations, visualizations, and ‘body scanning,’ in which your attention shows you where you are holding tension. There may also be homework you need to complete between sessions. 


Related topics

  • What is Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy?
  • Mindfulness: The third wave in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • CBT vs MBCT – what is the difference?


Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between MBCT and MBSR?

Both mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) focus on cultivating a better ability to manage life’s challenges through mindfulness. The main focus of MBSR is using acceptance to navigate stress in a time-limited group setting. Stress can also be managed using MBCT through acceptance. As a result, it emphasizes recognizing the link between negative thoughts and low moods quite quickly, and as a result it is designed to help with ongoing depression. As a one-on-one therapy, MBCT can also be offered over a longer period of time. 


Is MBCT better than CBT?

Both of these therapies are very effective and based on evidence. Recurrent depression can be treated with MBCT. Anxiety, PTSD, and trauma can also be treated with CBT. In contrast, MBCT focuses on raising acceptance of your life as it is, as well as your thoughts and feelings. CBT focuses more on changing thinking and behaviors assertively, using interventions that can be quite strong at first. What suits you best is a matter of personal preference. MBCT might be a better fit for you if you want to practice mindfulness and lean into life. CBT would be a better fit for you if you enjoy pushing yourself and your limits, and mindfulness seems uninteresting to you. 


Is mindfulness-based therapy a holistic therapy?

Not at all. There are many holistic practitioners who use mindfulness and meditation with clients, but this is different from MBCT. In contrast to holistic psychotherapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is recognized as a form of psychotherapy. The MBCT therapist you work with will be a fully trained counsellor or psychotherapist. There is a combination of mindfulness and psychotherapeutic principles here, not mindfulness as a therapy on its own.