Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a program originally developed to help prevent relapse of depression. It was jointly developed by Zindel Segal, John Teasdale and Mark Williams, eminent researchers and professors in psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy. MBCT combines elements of the MBSR program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn with aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Their book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression presents a thorough presentation of the method. A recently updated edition has also been published.
MBCT was originally developed for people who are not in a phase of acute depression and are stable at the time of the course. They may also have already experienced a number of depressive episodes in their life since the initial one, and may or may not be on antidepressant medication.
Similar to the structure of the MBSR program, MBCT consists of eight, weekly, two- to three hour sessions. It also includes a Day of Mindfulness after the sixth session.
During the course participants are taught the mindfulness exercises of MBSR (body scan, gentle yoga, walking and sitting meditation) that help them become aware of the changes happening in their minds and bodies so that early warning signs of depression relapse can better be recognized. Moreover, the course conveys relevant information on depression and includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises that highlight the connection between thinking and feeling.
MBCT has expanded beyond the field of depression relapse prevention and is being taught to client and patient groups who are living with conditions including, anxiety, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.
There are various options available for treating acute phases of depression. Effective methods to prevent relapse of depression, the risk of which stands at 80% after the third depressive episode, have remained more elusive.
MBCT has been shown to provide an important contribution in helping people to intervene in the downward depression cycle and to handle mood fluctuations in a constructive way.
Scientific studies show that for people who take part in an MBCT program, the risk of relapse is reduced by up to 50%. Two studies also demonstrate that MBCT as a means to prevent relapse has similar results to maintenance therapy using antidepressants.