by Gerald Epling

Perhaps, you have heard of mindfulness meditation?  It is the practice of meditation that is focused on keeping the mind centered on what is happening here and now in the present time.  Mindful meditation aims at enhancing the ability of an individual to observe what is going on from a perspective of relaxed awareness.

Mindful meditation is an important part of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which has reportedly helped people with chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, and anxiety.  Don’t get lost in the acronyms here, but notice that the next therapy is used for depression and is called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).  MBCT is derived from the stress reduction therapy, MBSR.  MBCT helps people who have experienced depression avoid relapsing into depression again.

Having a tool that helps prevent a relapse begs the question, “Why?”  Why does this mindfulness based therapy help keep depression away?  One aspect of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is education.  Cognitive psychological education is helpful in understanding how the mind works.  But is it necessary to combine mindfulness meditation with cognitive psychological education for MBCT to work?

In order to better understand Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy in preventing a relapse of major depression, twenty-one authors set out to tease apart the contribution of Cognitive Psychological Education to MBCT?  Here is how they did it.

227 experiment participants were divided into three different groups.  Everyone who participated in the study received Treatment As Usual (TAU) for depression.  What varied was the contrast of standard Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy with the cognitive psychological education part of MBCT.  This was essentially cognitive psychological education – without the additional elements of MBCT, such as meditation.

Participants received one of the following three treatments:

  1. TAU
  2. TAU plus Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
  3. TAU plus Cognitive Psychological Education

In the discussion section of the study, “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Relapse in Recurrent Depression: A Randomized Dismantling Trial,” the authors wrote,

“… this study revealed no significant general risk reduction in those allocated to MBCT compared with TAU or CPE.”

When the results were analyzed, there was no significant difference in the effectiveness of the treatment in the three groups.  However, follow-up analysis has shown an advantage for MBCT over TAU for participants who had childhood trauma in their background.

Details of this study are available on-line by following the link to the article under the heading “Relevant Reading” at the end of this article.

What does this mean?  Is it useful for someone in everyday life?

The results showed an application of two things we all know something about, education and meditation.  Education has a long history of providing satisfaction with learning how the world works.  Cognitive psychological education helps people understand the mind within them and the mindsets of people around them.  Beyond just gaining an understanding that comes with relaxed awareness, we need to go further and use our ability to understand so that we can help promote a healthy environment wherever we go.

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Relevant Reading

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Relapse in Recurrent
Depression: A Randomized Dismantling Trial

Mindfulness as effective as pills for treating recurrent depression – study

Your Guide to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy