Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale to treat people who suffered from relapsing episodes of depression. As the name suggests, MBCT combines cognitive therapy with meditative practices to promote self-awareness of unhelpful patterns of thinking and develop new ways of responding to thoughts, emotions, and actions that perpetuate mood disorders (https://www.mbct.com/).
Mindfulness and meditation are not quite the same thing.
Meditation is a formal practice of mindfulness. Many meditation practices are designed for relaxation purposes, while mindfulness is about bringing awareness to what is present without trying to fix it, control it, or judge it. Mindfulness can be practiced without having to schedule, add, or remove anything from your normal routine. The simple practice of noticing and naming helps regulate your emotions. You can also simply pay attention to ordinary tasks in a different way: pay attention to what's pleasant about it using your five senses.
The definition of mindfulness is paying attention with intention to what's present without judgment.
Mindfulness is not about feeling better or happier - although that may be a bonus consequence! It teaches you to acknowledge the moment you're in without attaching to judgments and exaggerated beliefs about it. People who practice mindfulness can train their brains to be present and engaged even in the face of uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness meditation won't fix your life's problems or stop painful things from happening. However, the practice of mindfulness could transform the way that you live. It helps change the way you interact with your world and enhance the richness that you get out of life.
MBCT applies the same principles of cognitive therapy with an emphasis on bringing non-judgmental awareness to thoughts and the physical sensations associated with them. Much like cognitive-behavioural therapy, this approach helps identify patterns of automatic thought processes that ultimately perpetuate suffering. With mindfulness training such as, body scans, diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, and observation practices, one can experience more in-the-present-moment awareness when hurtful automatic thoughts arise. This self-awareness can give you more freedom to choose how you respond to them.
There are an infinite amount of ways you can practice and integrate mindfulness into your life. Some of the more formal practices include: meditation, mindful movement, observing your breath, mindfulness of the five senses, observing thoughts, and body scanning. You can also practice it informally with day-to-day activities, such as paying attention to taste and textures of food, brushing your teeth, and taking a shower.
Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of Mindfulness
- Increased self-awareness
- Less negatively impacted by unwanted or uncomfortable thoughts/feelings
- Enhance the 'richness' you get out of the present moment
- Reduced rumination and worry [which helps reduce depression and anxiety]
- Increased awareness of painful emotions, thoughts, memories, and physical sensations
- Some people have reported distress when being aware of the present moment
Five Senses Mindfulness Exercise
Choose something pleasant to eat. Turn off distractions and pay attention to the experience of eating. Notice the texture, taste, and temperature. Savour it. Is it nostalgic? Pleasurable? Notice yourself enjoying it for the moment.
Next time you're in the shower, take a moment to smell your shampoo or body wash. Apply your favourite scented body lotion before bed and take a moment to appreciate the first inhale.
Notice the warmth of the water on your skin in the shower after a long day. Notice the softness or coziness of putting a sweater on next time you're feeling sad or scared. Give yourself a gentle massage starting with your arms and up to your neck.
Set the ambiance as you wind down for the evening by turning off overhead lights. Turn on lamps or candles for a dim, cozy effect. Admire it.
You can tune into sounds in different ways. Try listening to individual instruments or types of sounds that make up a song you like. Appreciate the song. You can also pay attention to sounds in nature. Crack a window in your bedroom, listen to the sounds of the city or nature.
"The little things? The little moments? They aren't little." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Anālayo, B. (2021). The Dangers of Mindfulness: Another Myth?. Mindfulness, 12(12), 2890-2895.
- Kuyken, W., Byford, S., Taylor, R. S., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., Byng, R., Mullan, E., & Teasdale, J. D. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in recurrent depression. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 76(6), 966.
- Website: https://www.mbct.com/
- Effectiveness. Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for issues related to mental health.
- Accessible. Accommodates those living in rural or remote areas, people living with disabilities that prevent them from leaving the home, and eliminates transportation barriers.
- Convenience. No need to schedule time for a commute.
- Cost Effective. Eliminates cost of parking and transportation.
- Coverage. Some insurance companies may not cover it. We encourage you to check with yours.
- Confidentiality and Privacy. Although we use encrypted, HIPAA-compliant software and abide by telehealth guidelines, communicating over the Internet entails a greater risk for security breach compared to in-person. It also means possible Internet connectivity issues.
- Distractions. Possibilities for disruption depending on your living circumstances and others in the home.
- Trust and Body Language. Some people may prefer viewing the entire body language of their therapist for more effective communication.
- Severe mental health or psychiatric concerns. A more appropriate and accommodating option for people that may need crisis intervention that is better supported with in-person care.
- Participation. It is an opportunity to engage in an activity outside of your home.
- Time consuming. Ensuring commute time may be challenging for busy schedules.
- Expenses. Possible parking and transportation fees.
All virtual sessions are conducted using secure, HIPAA-compliant software. Research has shown that psychotherapy offered through telehealth is an effective solution for mental health treatment. The efficacy of either option depends on individual preference and comfort level.