About Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Research suggests that once you have had depression, there is an increased risk that you will become depressed again.

So, what causes depression to return? If you have been depressed, and then recovered, you may have noticed that a small amount of sadness or disappointment can trigger a large amount of negative thoughts (e.g. `I am a failure', `I am weak', `I am worthless'). The same small amount of negative mood can also trigger bodily sensations of weakness or fatigue or unexplained pain. Both the negative thoughts and fatigue often seem out of proportion to the situation. You may find yourself ruminating: `what has gone wrong?', `why is this happening to me?', `when will it all end?'.

So what is going on here?: During an episode of depression, negative mood occurs alongside negative thinking and bodily sensations of sluggishness and fatigue. When the episode has past, and the mood has returned to normal, the negative thinking and body sensations may disappear as well. However, they have not really gone. The mind has learned an association between the various symptoms. This means that when negative mood happens again (for any reason) it will tend to trigger all the other symptoms. When this happens, the old habits of negative thinking will start up again, negative thinking gets into the same rut, and a full-blown episode of depression may be the result.

The discovery that, even when you feel well, the link between negative moods and negative thoughts remains ready to be re-activated is of enormous importance. It means that sustaining recovery from depression depends on learning how to keep mild states of depression from spiralling out of control.

Research has found that a new combination of meditation and cognitive therapy, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can help many of those struggling to remain depression-free. In 8 weekly classes, and by listening to tapes and practicing at home during the week, you learn the practice of mindfulness meditation and how to use it to disentangle yourself from depressed mood and thinking. Based on Jon Kabat Zinn's Stress Reduction Program (at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center) and Aaron T Beck's Cognitive Therapy (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) it includes simple breathing meditations and yoga stretches to help you become more aware of the present moment, including getting in touch with moment-to-moment changes in the mind and the body. It also includes basic education about depression, and several exercises from cognitive therapy that show the links between thinking and feeling and how best to look after yourself when depression threatens to overwhelm you. It is described in the book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy by Segal, Williams, Teasdale. Guilford Press: New York, 2002.

How does it work? MBCT helps you to see more clearly the patterns of your mind; and to learn how to recognise when your mood is beginning to go down. It helps break the link between negative mood and the negative thinking that might normally have escalated into a relapse. You develop the capacity to mindfully disengage from distressing mood, and negative thoughts. You find that you can learn to stay in touch with the present moment, without having to ruminate about the past, or agonise about the future.

The mindfulness approach is meant to enhance, not to compete with, whatever type of treatment you may be receiving for depression, whether antidepressants or psychotherapy. The aim is to continue the envelope of care into those periods when you are feeling well, and beyond. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy differs from mindfulness meditation as it is normally taught by the way it integrates Mindfulness practice into a psychological model of depression and depressive relapse, and the way it uses specific exercises to bring mindfulness (and concentration) to bear in stressful situations.

NOTE: This article was taken from http://www.beyondblue.org.

Read the 2000, JCCP article: Prevention of Relapse/Recurrance in Major Depression by Mindfulness-Based Coginive Therapy by Teasdale, Williams, et al

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