Mindfulness may be a viable alternative to anti-depressants, for people at risk of relapsing into depression, according to research just published in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
The researchers used Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), something I have been offering in New York City for the past year. Participants in the 8-week workshops learn a special form of mindfulness or Vipassana meditation along with cognitive skills to better deal with depressing thoughts.
Many participants have gained immensely from taking the workshop.
In research published several years ago MBCT was found to cut relapse rates in half. It was effective for people with chronic depression (3 or more episodes).
Now it appears that people on maintenance anti-depressants can consider learning MBCT and ending their medication. (Medical decisions need to be made with a medical doctor.)
The new research was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a highly-regarded publication of the American Psychological Association (APA), in its December 2008 issue. A summary of findings was published by the Utne Review, citing an article in the Shambhala Sun: http://www.utne.com/2008-12-05/Spirituality/Tackling-Depression-with-Meditation.aspx?blogid=28 .
MBCT has created quite a stir in the healing community. As I write this, researchers are studying application of MBCT to conditions other than depression. Published research can be accessed at www.PubMed.gov, searching under MBCT.
It is important to note that MBCT is not necessarily an alternative to anti-depressants. People can be on anti-depressants and still take MBCT. People often need anti-depressants when suffering from major depression. The purpose of MBCT is to reduce the risk of relapse into another period of major depression. It has been found effective for people who have had 3 or more episides of major depression. Subsequent study indicated that a way of understanding this is that it can be effective for people whose depression relates to mental processes such as rumination, and is not effective for people whose depression is more caused by a major negative life event. Finally, MBCT generally is offered to people who are between depressions, as participants need the energy to do 30 to 60 minutes of home practice daily. The practice consists mainly of mindfulness exercises that are a core of this treatment. The cognitive elements tend to be learned in the workshop setting.
This summary is my own understanding of MBCT, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the authors. I have studied MBCT with one of the authors during a 5-day retreat at Omega Institute, and have taught 3 of the workshops so far. The authors have websites that are available for access. One of them is www.MBCT.com. It lists related sites on MBCT.
Information on the MBCT workshop I offer in NYC is available at www.DonaldFleck.com, on the Mindfulness page.