What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?

What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?


Psychological interventions have evolved along with the field of psychology. Today, various branches of psychology offer various theories and perspectives that aid human beings in dealing with their mental health issues. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MBCT) is a holistic approach to psychotherapy.

Defining Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

We’ve all read one time or another about mindfulness — the practice of fully being in the present and engaging with the present with no judgment and criticism. Similarly, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the intervention or therapeutic approach that aims to identify irrational thoughts and try to change them. The definition of these two concepts of mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy is crucial to take into account before we delve into the meaning of mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy.

Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT) combines the method of CBT with meditation and the practice of mindfulness. MBCT emphasizes changing one’s relationship to one’s thoughts, rather than trying to explicitly change thought content (Segal et al., 2002; Teasdale et al., 1995, 2000). To summarise, it is a cognitive behavioural therapy that integrates meditation, mindful breathing, staying oriented in the present, and other activities that make one more aware of their thoughts and feelings.

This psychotherapy was created primarily to aid patients with depression, especially recurrent episodes. Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy was created by therapists Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale (Schimelpfening & Gans, 2023). The aim was to take the intervention termed mindfulness-based stress reduction (developed in 1979 by Jon Kabt Zinn) and combine it with cognitive therapy (Kocovski & Mackenzie, 2016).

With mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy, individuals can work and improve their self-awareness, self-awareness will bring knowledge about thoughts and feelings and MBCT also helps to maintain a non-critical attitude towards it. Techniques Used in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy MBCT aims to make an individual aware of their thoughts and feelings in a non-judgemental way. So in this therapy invention, an individual consciously tries to become self-aware of their emotions and thoughts while practicing to be non-critical. The psychotherapy intervention is also formed on the basis of the principles and characteristics of cognitive psychology.

Some of the exercises utilised in MBCT are —

  1. Body Scan: The exercise starts simply by lying down. The laid-down individual then tries to direct one’s attention to different body areas without touching them. You can start this process in a gradual sequence, starting from your toes and then slowly moving up your body till you reach the head.
  2. Meditation: Guided meditation helps one to gain awareness about oneself. A person can connect with their body, thoughts, and breathing. By paying attention to breathing, one can avoid judgments from creeping up and thoughts and feelings can be observed to gain awareness of the present.
  3. Loving-Kindness Meditation: It is a type of meditation that focuses on remembering and paying attention to all the good deed and compassion one possess towards others but also oneself. This method promotes kindness and positivity and often involves self-affirmations and repeating phrases full of kindness and positivity.
  4. Three-Minute Breathing Space: This is a three-step meditative exercise. Each step of this routine is only a minute long and has proven to be very beneficial. The three steps include —
    • Ask yourself about your present experience and feelings. (How do I feel right now?)
    • Pay attention to breathing
    • Pay attention to the physical sensations of the body
  5. Yoga: Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy encourages individuals to add yoga as a part of their daily routine. Yoga with its various poses promotes mindful stretching. Mindful stretching helps an individual to gain an awareness of the sensations of the body. Other mindfulness exercises like mindful stretching, mindful walking, use of sounds, etc, are also some of the important exercises not explained in the article but are very useful.
Why and When Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is used?

As mentioned before, MBCT is usually applied to recurrent episodes of depression. It is also used for other purposes —

Besides the treatment of disorders, it is also an effective method to understand negative thought patterns and attempt to break these patterns. It enhances emotional regulation and also manages stress and anxiety. Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy is used as an effective intervention and way to deal with chronic stress and build resilience. It has also been proven to help with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Studies have shown that MBCT has been able to reduce the risk of relapse in depression by 50%. It is considered one of the relatively safer interventions for individuals facing depression.

In conclusion, Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MBCT) emerges as a powerful approach in the realm of mental health. As a holistic therapeutic method, MBCT not only offers practical skills for navigating life’s challenges but also fosters a mindset of self-compassion and resilience.

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