Mindfulness Group Therapy Can Be as Good as Individual CBT for Many Psychiatric Symptoms

A new Swedish study shows that mindfulness group therapy is just as effective as individual CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for the treatment of patients with a wide range of psychiatric symptoms, including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, aggression, and paranoid ideation.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Primary Healthcare Research (CPF) in Malmö, Sweden, a collaboration between Lund University and Region Skåne.

Although many people with mental health problems need psychotherapy, individual appointments can be very expensive, and the supply of therapists may not meet the growing demand for treatment. The new findings show that group therapy with a focus on mindfulness is a viable alternative treatment to CBT for the treatment of a wide variety of psychiatric symptoms.

Group therapy can also help free up resources in health care to be used more efficiently.

“Our new research shows that mindfulness group therapy has the equivalent effect as individual CBT for a wide range of psychiatric symptoms that are common among this patient group,” said Professor Jan Sundquist, who led the research group in the study.

“We have shown in a previous study that mindfulness group therapy is just as effective as individual CBT for the treatment of typical depression and anxiety symptoms; something we also observed in the new study.”

The study was an eight-week randomized controlled trial involving 215 patients with depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. Patients were recruited from 16 different health care centers across Scania in southern Sweden.

Researchers looked at a wide range of psychiatric symptoms (measured by several types of questionnaires) and studied how these symptoms responded to treatment, either with mindfulness in group therapy or individual CBT.

They found that the average score for all 15 different subscales/indexes in the various questionnaires decreased significantly in both scales. The various scales measured, among others, symptoms of depression, general anxiety, stress and somatization, obsessive-compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, aggression, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism.

They found no difference in treatment outcomes between the two groups.

“As mental illnesses are increasing at a very fast rate it is absolutely essential to expand the treatment alternatives for this patient group in primary healthcare. Our view is that the scarce resources should be partly reallocated to mindfulness group therapy so that the limited availability of individual psychotherapy can be utilized in an optimal fashion,” said Sundquist.

The new findings are published in the journal European Psychiatry.

Source: Lund University