Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy – (MBCT)
Would you like to learn how to step out of and stay out of old, well practiced patterns of negative thinking and behavior?
MBCT participants learn a variety of powerful, yet gentle, mindfulness practices including mindfulness meditation, simple muscle stretching and relaxation, and mental imagery. Groups are designed to help individuals integrate these practices into their daily routine.
Stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and other impulsive behaviors can be chronic problems that can recur over the course of your life even if you have sought treatment. For example, once you have had depression once, there is an increased risk that you will become depressed again.
What causes symptoms to return?
If you have been depressed, and then recovered, you may have noticed that a small amount 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 the fatigue often seem out of proportion to the situation. You may find yourself ruminating; ‘what has gone wrong?’, ‘why is this happening to me?’, ‘where will it all end?’ Anxiety and other problems are likely to function in a similar manner.
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 is 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.
During episodes of anxiety, anger or impulsive behavior similar associations are learned among the symptoms (thoughts, feelings and sensations) of those disorders. 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 or anxious thinking or impulsive behavior will start up again, thinking gets into the same rut, and a full-blown episode of depression (or anxiety, anger or impulsive behavior) 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 and other emotional disorders depends on learning how to keep mild negative mood states from spiraling out or control.
Can a Mindfulness Based Program help me?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you may find Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy helpful:
- If you have depression, have you suffered from three or more episodes of depression in the past?
- Are you now recovered enough to consider taking steps to prevent future episodes?
- Do you find that, when you become sad or stressed out you tended to ruminate about things?
- Do you find you’re thinking rapidly becoming negative or anxious in response to small downward shifts in your moods?
- When your mood changes do you find yourself trying to analyze everything?
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Research has found that a new combination of meditation and cognitive therapy can help. In eight weekly classes, and by listening to tapes at home during the week, you learn the practice of mindfulness meditation and how to use it to disentangle yourself from depressed and anxious 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 includes simple breathing meditations and yoga-like 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, anxiety and impulsive behaviors, exercises that show the links between your thinking and feeling, and discussion about how best to look after yourself when depression or other negative mood states threaten to overwhelm you. It is described in the book Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, by Z.V. Segal, J.M.G. Williams and J.D. Teasdale (2002 Guilford Press, New York).
How does it work?
Mindfulness practices help you to see more clearly the patterns of your mind; and to learn how to recognize when your mood is beginning to go down. This way of thinking 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 or anxious 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 agonize about the future.
The mindfulness approach is meant to enhance, not to compete with, whatever type of treatment you may be receiving for depression or anxiety, whether it is medication 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, anxiety, and relapse, and by the way it uses specific exercises to bring mindfulness and concentration to bear in stressful situations.
All participants are asked to make a strong commitment to set aside 20-30 minutes daily for mindfulness practice at home.
To participate in an individual or group MBCT program contact Dr. Yaacov Kravitz, 215-635-3011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goldstein, J., & Kornfield, J. (1987) Seeking The Heart Of Wisdom: The Path Of Insight Meditation. Boston: Shambala.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990) Full Catastrophe Living. New York: Delacorte.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994) Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness’ Meditation In Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion.
Segal, Z.V., Williams, J.M.G., & Teasdale, J.D. (2002) Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach To Preventing Relapse. Guilford Publications, New York.