Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an approach to psychotherapy that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods in collaboration with mindfulness meditative practices and similar psychological strategies. It was originally created to be a relapse-prevention treatment for individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy or MBCT was developed by Mark Williams, Zindel Segal, and John Teasdale. The therapy is structured around helping individuals build relationships with the different states of mind.

MBCT is designed for people who suffer from depression and other forms of mental disorder that stem from emotions such as unhappiness, frustration, and anger. It combines the benefits of cognitive therapy with meditation techniques and integrates mindfulness as a key component.

A 2015 study found that MBCT helped prevent depression recurrence as effectively as maintenance antidepressant medication did. Source: www.apa.org

The Importance of MBCT

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American professor emeritus of medicine and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – Wikipedia

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment in a specific way, without judgement or criticism. He suggests that a mindful state exhibits certain key characteristics. These include the

ability to sustain focus on the current moment and to accept the present experience without judgement. For most of us, paying attention without judgement is the main obstacle. We harbor opinions and judgments about nearly everything and this taints our consciousness with false perceptions.

In effect, reality appears distorted. People who suffer from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, etc. experience this distortion to a higher degree. In fact, their daily lives are dominated by distorted mental images created by internal illusions.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of the field of Positive Psychology, there are two main filters of thought: optimism and pessimism. Optimists have a propensity to put a positive spin on things. For example, an optimist would think of a problem as a way to grow and explore new possibilities. A pessimist, on the other hand, may view the same event and decide that it is going to negatively impact them for the rest of their life.

Dr. Seligman discovered that pessimistic people are much more likely to suffer from depression compared to optimists. They are also more likely to develop hormonal and immune-related symptoms after a challenging life event.
Dr. Seligman’s research and studies indicated that our mental health is related to the way in which we perceive life events and challenges, rather than the actual events themselves. People who have a pessimistic attitude regarding life events are more susceptible to depression, illness, and premature death.

The problem is that the subconscious makes an association between negative thoughts and bodily sensations, such as fatigue and pain. Therefore, whenever there is a negative thought process, the mind makes an association with accompanying bodily sensations. MBCT seeks to replace negative associations with positive ones.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dreyer

Methods Used in MBCT

CBT inspired methods are used in MBCT, such as educating the participant about depression and the role that cognition plays within it. MBCT takes practices from CBT and applies aspects of mindfulness to the approach.

One example would be “decentering “, a focus on becoming aware of all incoming thoughts and feelings and accepting them, but not attaching or reacting to them. This process aims to aid an individual regarding disengaging from self-criticism, rumination, and dysphoric moods that can arise when reacting to negative thinking patterns.

Like CBT, MBCT functions on the etiological theory that when individuals who have historically had depression become distressed, they return to automatic cognitive processes that can trigger a depressive episode. The goal of MBCT is to interrupt these automatic processes and teach the participants to focus less on reacting to incoming stimuli, and instead of accepting and observing them without judgment. This is done by introducing meditation practice into the therapy process.


Meditation is the practice of tuning into your inner self. The practice helps the mind to develop the skills and strength to manage problems relating to our own thought processes. Most of the stress and anxiety that we experience is created by our own minds and is related to what we think of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.

Meditation helps to calm internal chatter and false self-perceptions – cutting through misleading self-perceptions is one of the most important benefits of mindfulness.
According to best-selling author of The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris, the incessant noise from thought conversations in your head interferes with your ability to perceive reality as it is. Mental distortion and false beliefs are one of the biggest causes of emotional stress – the resulting unhappiness leads to frustration and depression.

Developing mindfulness is one of the most effective tools to avoid this happening. According to research, this form of rest and peace for the mind helps to prevent and fight against certain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

Mindfulness and meditation are now widely accepted practices in Western culture – in the past fifty years or so, meditation practice has entered Western culture and now finds acceptance all over the world. Meditation is a potent tool for releasing repressed emotions. As a tool for mindfulness, it has the

potential to release resentment and anger associated with past memories. Constant thought conversations tend to be self-perpetuating, and you find yourself dwelling, yet again, on all the reasons that made you unhappy.

Meditation trains the mind, in particular, the attention to live in the present moment. Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not restricted to conscious meditation practice only. It can be said that you are meditating or mindful when you are gardening, drawing, painting, playing with your pet, dancing, singing, or listening to music.

In effect, any activity that helps you to live fully in the present moment is said to constitute meditation.

Life is available only in the present moment” – Thich Nhat Hahn

How Affective is MBCT?

A meta-analysis by Jacob Piet and Esben Hougaard of the University of Aarhus, Denmark Research found that MBCT could be a viable option for individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) in preventing a relapse. Various studies have shown that it is most effective with individuals who have a history of at least three or more past episodes of MDD.

Within that population, participants with life-event triggered depressive episodes were least receptive to MBCT. According to a 2017 meta-analysis, mindfulness-based interventions support the decrease in depressive and anxious symptoms in addition to the overall level of patient stress.

A mindfulness program based on MBCT offered by the Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, showed that measures of psychological distress, risk of burnout, self-compassion, anxiety, worry, mental well-being, and compassion to others all showed significant improvements after completing the program.

Research supports that MBCT results in increased self-reported mindfulness which suggests increased present-moment awareness, decentering, and acceptance, in addition to decreased maladaptive cognitive processes such as judgment, reactivity, rumination, and thought suppression.

Results of a 2017 meta-analysis highlight the importance of home practice and its relation to conducive outcomes for mindfulness-based interventions.

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