Feeling stuck, fatigued, anxious, and in a cloud of immense brain fog; these are all symptoms of someone suffering from Major Depressive Disorder. Several of these symptoms are also present in individuals who suffer from relatable disorders. However, researchers and therapists are shedding light on a process that combines therapeutic technique, as well as western medicine, that may help people suffering from these symptoms. The solution for many may fall under the umbrella of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. In short, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a therapy technique combining mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy. As stated previously, although this form of therapy is used most often to treat Major Depressive Disorder, recent studies are beginning to suggest the treatment may also be used for various other triggers such as stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation is the process of becoming present in your surroundings, being aware of how you feel in the space, and not reacting to the situation. It is a practiced technique in which you learn to “be” present in the moment without feeling a need or desire to react to it. This is particularly useful for individuals suffering from depression or anxiety, as the reactions to certain situations often impact the person negatively. When a negative reaction is created, this can lead to a downward spiral of emotions. Mindfulness meditation allows for the individual to distance him or herself from the reaction of the moment, and simply become aware of it; eliminating all judgement from the given situation. The person is trained to simply be. As a result, he or she can begin to create a more positive reaction to the experience in the future.
Cognitive therapy is a psychological treatment where the therapist helps the individual make adjustments to his or her way of thinking. It is often seen as an educational tool. Over the course of several weeks, the client is educated on the impacts of negative thinking, cognitive tools they can use in handling situations when particular thoughts arise, and how to foster healthier thought patterns. Although the educational component of this work may be presented in a fairly short amount of time, the restructuring of the client’s mindset takes a lot of patience, understanding, and comprehension of the underlying thoughts the client may come across on a day-to-day basis.
Combining Mindfulness and Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy usually occurs in a group therapy setting over the course of eight weeks. During this time, the clients are required to practice recorded mindfulness techniques as homework, where they are often guided through the process by the therapist’s voice. They also become educated on the differences between the physical body and the emotions a person possesses. Clients are trained to foster a more positive relationship with themselves as they begin to understand they are not their emotions, and in many cases, they can actually determine their emotions, mindset, and reactions to given situations and their overall experience of life.
It is in the combination of using mindfulness and cognitive therapy that therapists are beginning to see success in treating Major Depressive Disorder. As the clients are guided through mindfulness meditation during situations that their negative thoughts tend to thrive, they are able to retrain their thought patterns and become aware of a situation rather than react to it. Therapists may also educate clients on proper breathing techniques to use during their mindfulness meditation. Once an individual is able to successfully embrace a situation without reacting negatively to it, the spiral of decline is then paused. This is the perfect opportunity to then utilize the educational tools gained during cognitive therapy in restructuring their thought patterns. Clients are able to slowly begin reacting to situations with positive emotions rather than negative ones, because they now fully comprehend their unwarranted reactions in the past, the consequences of these reactions, and why they are choosing to react differently in this moment.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is truly the balance of alternative and modern-day techniques when it comes to treating psychological disorders. It embraces the art of mindfulness meditation that brings an individual into a present moment without him or her reacting to it. At the same time, it implements the traditional tools of cognitive therapy, where an individual and therapist focus on retraining thought patterns. It is this combination that allows the client to approach life with the ability to pause a situation, clear his or her thoughts, and deliberately choose to create a positive response about the experience, and life as a whole, rather than a negative one. Although the process can be quite difficult for many, and slow-moving for most, the result of living a happier, more fulfilled, and interactive life is reason enough to dive into Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for those who choose to do so.