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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

New Research: Mindfulness-Based Program as Effective as Antidepressant Medication

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Sep 3rd 2009

happy pillI often have people coming in to my private practice who are suffering from having had some form of depression throughout their lives. One question that is often asked is whether they should be taking antidepressants. This is always a personal choice and I take this as an opportunity to explore their thoughts, beliefs, and fears around antidepressants and the next conversation is to be had with their Psychiatrist. However, one thing I always bring up is the efficacious research around Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for preventing depressive relapse.

MBCT is an 8-week program, founded by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal, is an offshoot of the increasingly popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that has shown significant positive effects on stress, anxiety, and pain management.

Now, let me roll up my sleeves and reveal my biases. I am a trained MBSR and MBCT teacher and have really seen the significant benefits that arise from those who participate in these programs.

In 2008, Kuyken and colleagues put out research that showed, for the first time, that going through an MBCT program can be as effective as taking maintenance anti-depressant medication.

Here's the stats:

  1. One hundred and twenty three people were split up into two groups, with one group taking MBCT and the other just doing a maintenance anti-depressant medication program.

  2. During the study 75% of the people in the MBCT group were able to come off of the anti-depressants.

  3. At a 15-month follow-up  47% in the MBCT group had a depressive relapse compared with 60% on just the anti-depressant medications.

  4. No participants were in psychotherapy concurrently.

If anything at all, this is just very interesting. Although the pharmaceutical industry is a business whose aim is to create as much profit as possible, I'm not suggesting everyone who is taking medication try and get off medication. Medication can be extremely supportive in even being able to engage in an MBCT program and also seemingly necessary to for so many people. However, this provides a way toward greater self regulation. 

The biggest roadblock toward taking an MBCT group is finding one (currently mostly only in major cities) and that it requires a commitment to do daily practices of 30-60 minutes. In our fast-food, productivity driven culture, that may be a tall order for some, but it is that exact way of relating to life that needs to change to reduce stress and prevent relapse.

Share your thoughts, questions, and stories below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Just looking for reference info for work/found a great surprise - Susan Reiner-Lyon - Sep 4th 2009

I am a Psychiatric Occupational Therapist preparing for my annual performance appraisal meeting with my dept director. One of my goals for this year was to learn more about Borderline Personality D/O. As I was looking for reference info, I found Dr. Goldstein's Blog and found something for me..I look forward to procuring the MBSR Workbook. It looks like 2/2010 is the release date. Is that true? Bummer,I'd like to start now. My major stress is that I am also working as per diem O.T. in physical disabilities at Acute settings,Sub Acute facilities and SNF's. And preparing to also work O.T. home health. I am stressed and anxious to the max. I hope to take a breathe before the workbook is released.    

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