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Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Many drug and alcohol rehab centers use a variety of evidence-based therapies to treat individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Most often these include therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, family behavioral therapy, contingency management, and 12-step facilitation therapy.

Another beneficial yet lesser known therapeutic practice for treating addiction in a drug rehab setting is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Although it’s relatively new, this therapy has shown positive results in several treatment settings.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Defined

Good Therapy defines mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a combination of cognitive behavioral techniques and mindfulness strategies (such as meditation, breathing exercises, and stretches) that is designed to help individuals better understand their emotions and thoughts. As and a result, clients learn how to manage and relieve feelings of distress.

MBCT was originally designed to treat individuals with recurring bouts of depression, but its use has since expanded into treatment for a wide range of mental health and physical disorders, including:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder

Other Types of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapies

There are several other types of mindfulness-based therapies, in addition to MBCT. They include:

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)  Helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve self-awareness.
  • Mindfulness-integrated cognitive behavioral therapy1A four-stage treatment model used to treat acute and chronic disorders.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)2 Teaches clients how to acknowledge negative feelings and emotions instead of avoiding them to make positive life changes.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)3A very effective therapy for treating borderline personality disorder, but also used to treat anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other psychiatric disorders.
  • Hakomi therapy 4A psychotherapy based on the principles of mindfulness, nonviolence, and the unity of mind and body.
  • Mode deactivation therapy (MDT)5 A therapy designed to help teens who suffer from trauma and behavioral problems.
  • Morita therapy  This method of treatment helps clients learn how to accept their emotions and thoughts instead of trying to change them, and in turn, improving function and many other aspects of day-to-day life.

Benefits of Mindfulness-Based Therapies in Addiction Treatment

Although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to treat individuals who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression, research has also shown that it is very effective in treating populations that are more likely to relapse. This includes chronic drug and alcohol abusers.

In addition to being cost-effective and very accessible, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and other mindfulness-based therapies, are very beneficial in a drug and alcohol rehab setting for several reasons.

  1. Reinforces relapse prevention Many individuals who suffer from substance abuse disorders also struggle with chronic depression. In addressing both the depression and the addiction in drug rehab, the client can learn how to better understand those negative emotions and how they relate to their drug abuse and relapse habits. In addition, MBCT can help clients learn to respond to cravings and stress in more productive ways than using drugs or alcohol.
  2. Assists clients in managing feelings of anxiety – Several studies found that the use of MBCT significantly improved measures of anxiety, worry, and even sleep quality. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy helps reduce stress levels and encourages clients to recognize their anxiety as negative thoughts instead of predictive facts. This gives those thoughts less power and influence over the client’s behaviors.
  3. Aids in trauma recovery -One recent study from 2015 found that mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy actually reduced the severity of PTSD symptoms in veterans and increased their quality of life. This suggests that mindfulness-based therapies may also aid in the trauma recovery of those suffering from addiction while in treatment at a drug rehab center.

Research has shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an effective and highly beneficial therapeutic tool for addiction treatment in alcohol and drug rehab centers. In combining MBCT with other evidence-based therapies, a rehab center can provide a well-rounded treatment program for individuals suffering from addiction.


  1. MiCBT Institute – What is Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  2. Association for Contextual Behavioral Sciences – Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
  3. Behavioral Tech, A Linehan Institute Training Company – What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  4. About Hakomi Therapy
  5. Swart, J., & Apsche, J. (2014). Family mode deactivation therapy (FMDT) as a contextual treatment. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 9(1), 30-37.
  6. Morita School of Japanese Psychology – Morita Therapy
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Kelsey Brown

Kelsey Brown is from Chicago, IL and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Missouri State University. She went on to write articles, website content, marketing materials, and more for a variety of different industries. Kelsey finds fulfillment in creating educational and meaningful content for those seeking addiction treatment. She regularly writes about a variety of topics related to substance abuse, including the science of addiction, drug and alcohol detox, long-term drug and alcohol rehab, intensive outpatient care, and transitional living for individuals in recovery. When she’s not writing, Kelsey prefers to spend her time outdoors.

APA Reference
Brown, K. (2018). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Addiction Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 9 Aug 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.