Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a technique with mindfulness strategies developed to help individuals better understand and manage thoughts and emotions to achieve relief from the feelings of distress. This therapy method was originally developed for the treatment of depression and relapse prevention, but it may be beneficial to individuals seeking treatment for a number of mental health concerns. The focus placed on major depressive disorder and the cognitive processes is what distinguishes Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from other mindfulness-based therapies.

The therapy approach used in MBCT involves people learning how to use cognitive methods and mindfulness meditation to interrupt the automatic process that often will trigger depression. Symptoms such as negative thoughts, low mood, weariness, and certain body sensations often occur during an episode of depression. Following an episode, some connections may still exist between these symptoms. Small negative stimulus are able to still trigger a large downward spiral following an episode.

How is it used?

MBCT is used to help participants learn how to recognize their sense of being and to see themselves as separate from their thoughts and moods. This method attempts to give participants the tools necessary to combat depressive symptoms as they arise. By developing an awareness of separation between the thoughts, emotions, and self, people in treatment are able to find that although the self and emotions exist simultaneously, they do not have to exist within the same dimension. The goal is to interrupt the automatic processes and teach the participants to place focus less on reacting to incoming stimuli, but instead to accept and observe them without judgement.

Similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy functions on the theory that individuals who have historically had depression become depressed, they will return to automatic cognitive processes which can trigger a depressive episode. Research also supports the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in reducing cravings for individuals with substance abuse issues.

Normal sadness can be a trigger for someone who has recovered from a depressive state to relapse into another bout of depression. Instead of trying to avoid or eliminate sadness or negative emotions completely, the individual learns to change their relationship with these emotions by practicing meditation and other mindfulness exercises. These activities are used to rebalance neural networks which allow the client to move away from the automatic negative responses aimed at an understanding that there are other ways to respond to these situations. This technique can be used by developing a routine meditation practice, clients are able to use it when they begin to feel overwhelmed with negative emotions.