Understanding Mindfulness


Let it be post-it

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was designed specifically to help people who are prone to recurring depression. It combines mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching, with elements from cognitive therapy to help break the negative thought patterns that are characteristic of recurrent depression.

MBCT is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for people who suffer from recurrent episodes of depression. Evidence shows that MBCT can, on average, reduce the risk of relapse of recurrent depression by 43% (Mark et al, 2014).

Research also suggests that it’s particularly effective for groups who are more likely to relapse (Teasdale et al, 2000), as well as being a cost-effective and accessible treatment for individuals and providers, due to its psycho-social approach to staying well (Williams & Kuyken, 2012).

MBCT teaches people to pay attention to the present moment, rather than worrying about the past or the future, and to let go of the negative thoughts that can tip them over into depression. It also gives people a greater awareness of their own body, helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression and ward off the episode before it starts. The core elements of MBCT are included in our online mindfulness course.

Almost three-quarters of GPs think mindfulness meditation would be helpful for people with mental health problems. Unfortunately this is not reflected in the findings of our 2010 survey, which revealed that 69% of GPs said they rarely or never refer their patients with recurrent depression for MBCT. Long-term courses of anti-depressants are typically used, with 75% of GPs prescribing anti-depressants to treat patients with recurrent depression, despite the ongoing findings of the effectiveness of MBCT. This is possibly due to the limited availability of the therapy as an NHS treatment (Rycroft-Malone et al, 2014).

Evidence from clinical trials across the globe is compelling, and while more trials are needed, the case for mindfulness is growing by the day!

Try this 10 minute exercise by co-founder of MBCT, Professor Mark Williams. It features a series of breathing and visualisation techniques.

Subscribe to our Wellbeing Podcasts on iTunes


Mark, J., et al (2014) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Preventing Relapse in Recurrent Depression: A Randomized Dismantling Trial, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Rycroft-Malone, J., et al (2014) Accessibility and Implementation in UK Services of and Effective Depression Relapse Intervention Programme – Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): ASPIRE Study Protocol, Implementation Science

Teasdale et al (2000) Prevention of Relapse/Recurrence in Major Depression by Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Williams, M., Kuyken, W (2012) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: A Promising New Approach to Preventing Depressive Relapse, The British Journal of Psychiatry