What is the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?

Woman meditating while sitting in a field

Mindfulness can not only help improve self-criticism and self-confidence in patients with depression, but it also reduces the chances of a relapse. / Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es la Terapia cognitiva basada en mindfulness?

A recent study suggests that Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can help improve the perception that patients with depression have of themselves .

A study conducted by Elisabeth Schanche, PhD, of the University of Bergen, Norway, and published in the journal Counseling and Psychotherapy Research, suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may not only help improve self-criticism and self-confidence in patients with depression, but also reduce the chances of a relapse .

What is mindfulness?

The word mindfulness is a translation of “sati”, a word in the Pali language that refers to awareness, attention and memory. It was used by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago in his teachings . Thus, sati is the human capacity to be in the present and to be able to remember or bring thoughts from the past to the present to pay attention to them.

In this way, mindfulness is a technique that has evolved over the years but that has maintained the main idea of the Buddha's teaching in which meditation is used to observe the experiences that are presented as they are with in order to eliminate the behavior, thoughts and emotions that generate suffering .

The technique began to be studied by scientists during the 1970s and the studies increased dramatically in the 1990s. Currently, this technique is applied to different models of psychotherapeutic treatments and continues to be studied in fields such as neuroscience, neurophysiology and education. In the case of psychotherapy, there are both therapies that are based on mindfulness and therapies that use it within its model.

What is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?

It is a type of psychotherapy that was created by Zindel Segal and Mark Williams in 2002, and was initially developed to prevent relapse in patients suffering from chronic depression . They proposed that these relapses occurred when there was a reactivation of negative thoughts in situations of stress, sadness or anxiety.

This type of therapy combines the techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapy and techniques such as meditation and mindfulness, that is, mindfulness. The first seeks to educate the patient about depression in order to make them aware of their negative thoughts, their causes and effects. The second focuses on making the patient focus and aware of his thoughts and feelings without the need to react to them.

Classic cognitive therapies tend to focus on changing the content of the patient's thinking, while MCBT trains the patient to change the way they relate to their thoughts and experiences. In this way, the patient can have a process of "decentration", with which he improves his self-criticism and self-confidence, at the same time that he moves away from obsessively thinking about his problems and emotions .

This type of therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, in addition to regulating mood . Also, several studies suggest that it works better in people who have major depressive disorder. The MCBT program usually consists of an intervention group that lasts for 8 weeks that is divided into sessions of two hours per week during the first 4 weeks, and after the fifth, longer sessions are carried out. For this therapy, the patient must do guided meditations outside the sessions and apply mindfulness to their daily life.

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It is important to remember that this therapy is thought of as a supportive or alternative therapy, and research has shown that it is most effective in people who have had at least three depressive episodes. It is also very important that before deciding what type of therapy to take, research other therapies and consult an expert.