Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy: A Great Maintenance Antidepressant!

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is a powerful maintenance strategy for depression in remission. In fact, a recent study indicates it’s just as effective as antidepressants.

The work was conducted at the outpatient clinics of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, as well as St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario. The details were published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The bottom-line of the study…

In an effort to prevent depression relapse, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy was found to be just as effective as a traditional antidepressant regimen. Furthermore, it’s important that depressed patients with unstable remission stay involved with at least one long-term treatment program.

What is Mindfulness?

Well, if we’re going to discuss something that’s mindfulness based, we’d better have an idea as to what it is. Very simply, mindfulness is a clear-minded, in-the-present-moment, self-observational technique that emphasizes viewing self without criticism or judgment.

Buddhist nun and Tibetan Buddhism teacher and author, Pema Chodron, states, “The root (of mindfulness practice) is experiencing the itch as well as the urge to scratch, and then not acting it out.”

So What’s Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy?

Developed by  Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams, and John D. Teasdale, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a  psychotherapeutic approach for stress reduction, pain management, behavior change, and self-management of depressive symptoms. It’s based upon John-Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

There are no meds involved in MBCT, rather a teaching of how to be aware of, and regulate, emotions; so relapse triggers can be caught early. And then it’s about making lifestyle changes that aid in finding a sense of mood balance.

The Study

The study’s leader, Zindel V. Segal, cited the reality that those enduring depression all too often stop taking their meds too soon. That being the case, Segal and his colleagues decided to see how effective MBCT would be in preventing relapse.

The research team came up with 84 subjects who were in full remission from major depressive disorder. All had experienced two major depressive episodes and had undergone eight months of antidepressant treatment.

The subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: those who ceased their meds and participated in MBCT, those who continued their meds for another 18 months, and a group who also continued their meds for 18 months – but their “meds” were switched to a placebo.

For the record, the MBCT work was comprised of eight weekly group sessions and daily homework. The subjects learned how to observe thoughts and emotions – and how to transition from ruminating and avoiding thoughts, to reflecting upon them without judgment.

Results? Relapse rates for the MBCT group didn’t differ from those of the group whose members continued taking antidepressants. That range, by the way, was 30%. The placebo group’s relapse rate was 70%.

So, again, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy was found to be just as effective as a traditional antidepressant regimen in the prevention of depression relapse.

I do all I can to keep chipur readers up-to-date on the latest in the research world. And finding information that may help any of us with a goal of overcoming depression is time well spent.

Any experience with MBCT and depression out there? We’d love to read your comments!