A Glance at Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
Most of us have heard or read about the efficacy of meditation in the treatment of depression. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet to say a great many of us have experienced it firsthand. But how does it work? What can psychology and the other cognitive sciences tell us about the effect of mindfulness practice on the mind of someone who’s chronically depressed?
Recently a team of psychologists at Oxford University staged a study to answer precisely this question. Their results confirm that combining ancient forms of meditation with current cognitive behavioral therapy can indeed benefit depressed individuals– even those whose depression is recurrent and severe.
The Oxford team have dubbed this new approach Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and have published their inital findings in the Journal of Behavioural Research and Therapy. In the study, 28 patients who had suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts in the past and were currently experiencing symptoms were randomly divided into two groups. One group received traditional therapy and treatment, while the other were introduced to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy as well. A statistically significant number of participants in the MBCT group experienced a marked reduction in symptoms, while the control group’s responses to therapy were in the normal range.
MBCT includes mindfulness meditation tutorials and tools for mood management, especially when feelings of despondency threaten to overwhelm the patient. According to lead researcher Professor Mark Williams of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry,
“We are on the brink of discovering really important things about how people can learn to stay well after depression. Our aim is to help people to find long-term freedom from the daily battle with their moods.”
Instead of being caught up in disturbing memories of the past or anxiety about what the future may hold, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy helps people to live in the present moment. This lies at the heart of MBCT, just like ancient meditation methods. The team at Oxford is currently carrying out a larger study that will compare the new approach to traditional cognitive therapy. What’s clear is that meditation can be highly conducive to mood management and the treatment of depression– and its counterpart, anxiety.
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