depression mindfulness treatment

Mindfulness has its critics. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT was first developed by  Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. MBCT has been embraced by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, but some people are unconvinced. However, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that MBCT can help people manage depression and prevent relapses. The team, led by the University of Oxford, conducted the largest meta-analysis on the impact of mindfulness on depression.

MBCT is used to help people suffering from depression repel the thoughts and feelings they associate with the illness. This treatment generally includes guided mindfulness practices, group discussion and cognitive behavioural exercises.

Using anonymous data from nine trials involving 1,258 participants, researchers found that 38 percent of those who received MBCT experienced a depressive relapse. However, nearly half — 49 percent — of patients who didn’t receive MBCT relapsed. Age, sex and level of education had no significant influence on the therapy's performance.

Mindfulness can work alongside medication

The researchers also looked at how MBCT worked in conjunction with anti-depressants. They wanted to know if using mindfulness alongside medication was more successful than medication alone. They found that patients who received MBCT along with anti-depressants were less likely to experience a depressive relapse than those who were only receiving medication.

Lead author of the study, Willem Kuyken, a professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, commented: “While MBCT is not a panacea, it does clearly offer those with a substantial history of depression a new approach to learning skills to stay well in the long-term. It offers people a safe and empowering treatment choice alongside other mainstay approaches such as cognitive-behavioural therapy and maintenance antidepressants. We need to do more research, however, to get recovery rates closer to 100 per cent and to help prevent the first onset of depression, earlier in life. These are programmes of work we are pursuing at the University of Oxford and with our collaborators around the world."