Mindfulness cognitive therapy (or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, MBCT) is a blend of two very different approaches — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which focuses on changing our thoughts in order to change our behaviors, and the meditative practice of mindfulness, a process of identifying our thoughts …

17 Comments to
Is Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Effective?

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. It’s nice to see that there is research that supports MBCT.

    An important goal in therapy is to help the patient shift into the “navigator’s seat” to so they can “watch” their thought processes. This can be achieved through relaxation or meditative techniques.

  2. > mindfulness really looks at how a person thinks — the process of thinking — to help one be more effective in changing negative thoughts.

    really? I thought that mindfulness was about awareness in a way that WAS NOT focused towards change. Acceptance for the sake of change isn’t really acceptance, you see.

    mindfulness had a similar kind of support already with the efficacy of Linehan’s DBT. The treatment consisted of four components so admittedly it was hard to know whether the efficacy was essentially linked to mindfulness or whehter the mindfulness was irrelevant. That being said patients reported getting the most benefit from the mindfulness section of the course.

    IMHO the hardest thing in the world… Is to train CBT therapists (who have been trained to focus on change change change) to understand mindfulness themselves such that they can teach it effectively…

  3. I think that a major component here is being forgotten. Mindfulness is a wonderful anti-ruminative strategy, and there are several studies that show this! And of course, there is a whole body of literature that shows the detrimental effects of chronic rumination; particularly in relation to depression, dysphoria and anxiety.

  4. This too shall pass. I don’t mind. Do you?

  5. The thing about the research….. a recent article in the New York Times also quibbled about the quality of the reseach. It compared MBCT treatment versus TAU (treatment as normal). So, the treatment was found effective for 60% of those who took it, given that they had chronic depression (not depression specifically from a life event).

    I teach MBCT in New York City. It has worked pretty well in my classes. Outside that, I work with psychodynamic therapy and cognitive therapies. What’s really important is that almost no research has found psychodynamic therapy effective, yet it is the ‘normal’ psychotherapeutic approach. I use it because it works, it is just hard to define the method as it is so general.

    So…. MBCT hasn’t got ‘definitive’ research, but neither have many other treatments. Interestingly, it is about as effective as antidepressants, but without their relapse rate.

    Some details on MBCT are on my web site, DonaldFleck.com. I’m based in NYC, USA.

    Am interested in comments and questions, of course!

    Donald Fleck DCSW

    • Donald, I wanted to leave a reply to the MBCT method in relation to “regular” therapy approaches that do not rely on medication. I am currently seeing a therapist who practices MBCT and while I have a history of depression and also a history of using anti-depressants and then stopping the use, I am unsure about wanting to rely on anti-depressants. I have not been on any for a couple years now, but I have been very up and down with moods and anxiety and severe depression. (I have been diagnosed with BPD) I have only recently started therapy with her and have not entirely started practicing these new techniques, or been shown them, except for some mention of breathing techniques and introducing meditation.

      When you stated, “So…. MBCT hasn’t got ‘definitive’ research, but neither have many other treatments. Interestingly, it is about as effective as antidepressants, but without their relapse rate.” I was curious if you could provide more information on this statement. Thank you.

  6. As a Psychologist and Mindfulness Teacher I have to recognize my bias here. I have been integrating mindfulness into psychotherapy in my West Los Angeles practice for quite some time now. The reason it is catching on so well is simply because part of what we try and cultivate in therapy is awareness and that is exactly what is cultivated in mindfulness-based approaches.

    CBT can be seen as a really good fit because it draws almost the same circle as vipassana approaches of creating awareness of thoughts, feelings, and emotions and the interaction of them. CBT explicitly adds the behavioral piece. However, this can also support and enhance other therapies as well.

    I have found using mindfulness-based approaches not only effective for most in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression, but also in opening people up to the kindness and compassion that they inherently have for themselves and others.

    Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

  7. Hi John,
    I wonder if you could please delete my comment?

    Since I posted a comment on June 3, your site is coming up when people search for me, not my site.

    Your article is interesting, of course, keep on writing, and I’ll learn how to post comments that don’t detract from my own site!


  8. > mindfulness really looks at how a person thinks — the process of thinking — to help one be more effective in changing negative thoughts.

    <> Isn’t this where nonjudgmentalness comes in tho? You don’t judge your thoughts/feelings, you accept them as they are. Therein lies the acceptance. “Acceptance is the only way out of pain”. It’s the first step The change occurs when you learn to turn your mind toward a healthier way of thinking by using the other DBT skills. I think that’s where some people who seek out Mindfulness meditation on their own can get “stuck”, if they are not healthy. Or, as we sit with our thoughts/feelings, watching them come, and go, they eventually dissipate, that too is change, yet you are still accepting yourself in that moment. I hope I’m on the right track here ;)

  9. My above post was in response to Alexandra. For some reason it didn’t print- “really? I thought that mindfulness was about awareness in a way that WAS NOT focused towards change. Acceptance for the sake of change isn’t really acceptance, you see.”

  10. You write “Does any of this [MBCT therapy] work? Well, according to new research, yes.” Then you cite a limited number of studies showing vague, secondary and limited benefits, but – and here’s the point – whose “findings cannot be attributed to MBCT-specific effects.” You follow this with word-play intended to confuse the fact that the research you cite doesn’t support the effectiveness of MBCT. By your own report, MBCT has been around for 30 years; it should be a mature technique, there should be no excuses for a lack of objective support. Yet you end with a euphemistic “So the answer of its effectiveness remains elusive,” followed by the alarming phrase “but people will continue to pursue MBCT regardless.” Together with the snake-oil responses from therapists, all this suggests that any effectiveness of MBCT my well be limited to the mind of the therapist.

  11. I have found in teaching or coaching mindfulness that those committed to practice can have some very positive impact on their lives.

    I.e. The person with severe headaches. Already under medical treatment of pain meds.
    I convinced this person to get a complete top to bottom – from to back medical check up. Three eye glass perscriptions later, a change in lighting at work, walking for 20 minutes a day that included 7 minutes of meditaive / mindfulness walking, 6 – 12 sessions per week of relaxation response via a commercially sold program, cut coffee consumption to 1 8ox cupa day. I told her we are into excellence not perfection… :0 and she is now at 25 days and headache free and quite surprised with her self.

    I’m a ex cancer patient who is very pleased at how open some are to trying safe interventions in their life when all else fails. Mindfulness is not a cure all…. but having volunteered helping many many acutely ill and chronically ill.. and typically they have NO mental health budget…. having them learn this skill… many told me it helped them regain a sense of control over their mind and their lives.

  12. I think it is wonderfull that cognitive therapists have embraced mindfulness – but the fit was in no way “natural”, as some like to present it as. There is no fit. What has happened is that cognitive therapy has made a substantial move away from it’s original premises – and it was about time. Mindfulness is also easily integrated with other types of therapy, and important work has allready been done in this regard (Mark Epstein). What remains to be seen is if the therapists and researchers (in particular) now can acquire a respectfull and thoughtfull “mode” of thinking and speaking about different approaches, or – as in the past – they will continue their rather primitive devaluation of those they dont like.

  13. I have been practicing meditation for 2 years now. It took me good 7 month with weekly session to finally experience that ‘feeling’ by letting go and only recently fully understand how to ‘let go’ when I wish to, to get that feeling intensely. I am now starting yo have good command of both types of mediation techniques.

    I saw a preogramme on MCBT on tv and they described how mindfulness is tought during 8 weeks course. While I dont doubt that MCBT works, I can not belive that anyone is able to learn Mindfulness technique in such a short time frame!!
    It’s just not possible.

    Even a regular Zen monk in Japan has to train 24/7 for 5 to 6 years to fully ‘get it’. (But not the ‘final bit’ if you know what I mean).

    Or is Minffulness not the same as meditation?

  14. CBT is a must for DID – excellent results.
    CBT will bring about mindfulness because one must address and bring new perspective on whatever work is being done, one thing at a time, in CBT. To be mindful is to be in this moment – I am safe, there is nothing to fear, I can just “be”.

    Mr. Moderator, please allow me into chat. I learned so much about my condition and I am a loner.

  15. “So the answer of its effectiveness remains elusive, but people will continue to pursue MBCT regardless”

    It amazes me that a therapy can be so much talk about without a single evidence that it works! Are we that desperate? Yea, we certainly are.

  16. Yoga is a way of life, a conscious act, not a set or series of learning principles. The dexterity, grace, and poise you cultivate, as a matter of course, is the natural outcome of regular practice. You require no major effort. In fact trying hard will turn your practices into a humdrum, painful, even injurious routine and will eventually slow down your progress. Subsequently, and interestingly, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is the direct result of involving the mind totally in inspiring (breathing) the body to awaken. Yoga is probably the only form of physical activity that massages each and every one of the body’s glands and organs. This includes the prostate, a gland that seldom, if ever, gets externally stimulated in one’s whole life.

  17. Interesting article. I just finished listening to some mp3 from Oxford University’s Dr. Mark Williams. It appears to me that some rather bold claims are being made as to the efficacy of MBCT. He uses terms like entanglement as though what he is describing is something new. It is not. He is merely describing what REBT and CBT well understands to be the nature of the tautological, obsessive nature of irrational thinking. He notes that when the mind tries to “problem-solve” negative emotions it becomes “entangled.” Actually no problem-solving is going on, just irrational thinking. MBCT practiced regularly helps reduce relapse. How is this earth shattering I fail to see, since any regular practice of challenging irrationalities and rational awareness/thinking will do the same thing. In other words it appears to me that MBCT has not discovered anything earth shattering. I suspect the MBCT functions something like systematic desensitization. I would be interested in seeing studies comparing the two.

  18. Meditation changes our state of mind and helps in better control over his life. This is the perfect way to removing stress.

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:

(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)


Recent Comments
  • elaine j: My heart is in the same pattern….I don’t know if I will survive, but my daughters (age 37 and...
  • butch: As I read through the news and the comments ,Im left with one thing .Anybody whos ever had panic attacks or...
  • leon: I hear you there, I have been in a relationship for 25 years yet feel I am single. In order of importance to my...
  • EJH: There is one serious problem with remembering and ‘connecting’ to the play you enjoyed as a child...
  • Simon: Hi Matt Your post is simply the same as mine experience except I’m 50 years and now renting /sharing...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code