Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MCBT)

What Is Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an effective psychotherapy treatment for individuals with recurrent depression and episodes of sadness. It combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness exercises such as meditation. Together, this helps teach people how to manage their negative thoughts and reframe how they view themselves in relation to their moods and emotions.

Evidence-Based Therapy

MBCT is a relatively new therapy developed by Jon Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Mark Williams. The earliest clinical trial was published in 2000. Since then, randomized clinical trials have indicated that MBCT reduces relapse rates by 50% among patients who suffer from depression. These trials have also found that MBCT is more effective than antidepressant medication at reducing depressive symptoms and can even help patients discontinue taking antidepressants altogether.

How Does MBCT Work?

Your thoughts are powerful. They can directly affect your feelings and actions. MBCT teaches patients how to separate themselves from their negative thoughts and emotions during and after a depressive episode by combining cognitive therapy and mindfulness to improve mental health ultimately.

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In MBCT, patients are introduced to what depression is and what makes them vulnerable to negative moods and downward spirals. They are then helped to make connections between their negative thoughts and resulting low periods through mindfulness practices. The goal is to help patients develop ways to recognize and accept their thoughts while practicing self-compassion.

Mindfulness is the simple act of continually being aware of our thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness exercises, including mindful seeing, body scans, timed breathing exercises and guided meditation, help patients identify thought patterns and shift them, often by bringing their full attention to sounds and sensations while completing an action. It also teaches patients how to focus on the present moment and allows them to accept the thoughts that come without attaching value judgments to them. 

How Will It Help Me?

MBCT is clinically proven to treat patients who suffer from recurrent depressive episodes. There is evidence that it can help treat anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and general low mood or unhappiness. Research also suggests that MBCT can also help reduce cravings for addictive substances and help treat depression caused by injury or medical issues.

Typically, patients participate in a structured 8-week mindfulness-based therapy program where they combine mindfulness practices with cognitive-behavioral techniques. They are assigned homework, during which they are asked to complete an hour of mindfulness activity six days per week. Successful patients typically experience decreased worry and rumination, a greater appreciation of everyday activities, and increased positive emotions. 

MBCT provides patients with the tools they need to quit engaging with automatic thought processes that worsen depression. By implementing proper coping skills and becoming aware of distressing thoughts and emotions, patients learn to let go of harmful feelings and behaviors. Thus, patients can avoid a relapse of negative thoughts.

Finding an MBCT Therapist

When researching MBCT therapists in your community, be sure that they are licensed mental health professionals with MBCT specific training. MBCT professionals leading a group course must also: 

  • Have attended a dedicated MBCT training program
  • Completed MBCT training courses
  • Have taught a minimum of 20 hours of MBCT courses under the supervision of a licensed MBCT practitioner  

In addition to having the right credentials, it is important before beginning an MBCT program that you feel comfortable with the instructor. Ask them questions, gauge the course’s workload, and decide if your personalities jive. You may also consider whether or not group therapy is right for you, which is something an established MBCT professional can help you decide. MBCT therapists can be found via an online directory or as a referral from your primary care physician.

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