Mindfulnes Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a research-based therapy that combines mindfulness meditation with elements of cognitive therapy. Starting in 2000, MBCT was developed and tested as a treatment for recurrent depression. Now MBCT is being tested as a treatment for a variety of disorders and symptoms, including moderate to severe depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis and suicidality.
How MBCT Works
The human mind has two primary modes for receiving and processing information from the environment — “doing” mind and “being” mind. The Western mind often gets perpetually stuck in mindless doing, living on autopilot, reflexively thinking and feeling.
MBCT is based on the premise that mental health depends on a person’s ability to detach from doing mind and enter into being mind at appropriate times to promote lasting emotional change, particularly for individuals who suffer from recurrent and chronic depression and anxiety.
Lasting emotional change requires the ability to notice thoughts, urges, body sensations and emotions in the moment and to accept reality as it is, letting go of what we want or think it should be. MBCT teaches participants to use thought records and mindfulness meditation to interrupt the automatic processes — negative thoughts, emotions, urges and body sensations — that can lead to depression and anxiety.
What MBCT Is
MBCT is taught in a group setting, instead of individual therapy. Each two-hour weekly class includes four parts:
a guided meditation,
a guided discussion aimed at helping participants discover for themselves the lessons to be learned from the meditation
linking the lessons learned to everyday life with depression and anxiety.
Participants are expected to do 30-60 minutes of homework six days a week between classes. MBCT does not achieve its goals without daily practice. Participants who cannot commit to do the homework daily are discouraged from taking the class.
Through a prescribed sequence of meditations and thought records, participants learn to mindfully move between doing and being mind depending on what is needed in the moment. In being mind, they learn to mindfully notice and accept their thoughts, emotions and urges as passing mental events without preference for good/bad, happy/sad, etc. Whereas, in doing mind, ruminating on negative thoughts and dwelling on negative emotions can become a mindless activity.
In being mind, participants learn “I am not my thoughts or emotions, depression or anxiety.” Rather, “I have thoughts and emotions. My depression and anxiety do not define me.” They also learn to be in doing mind mindfully — whether brushing teeth, showering, eating, gardening, listening to music, whatever.
For more information about MBCT, go to the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. St Louis DBT offers a 10 week MBCT class called “The Mindful Way Through Depression” three times a year.