The Critical Element: MBCT as Effective as Antidepressants
Just recently, Zindel Segal, PhD and his colleagues found that taking a Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) 8-week course was equally as effective in protecting against relapse in depression as taking medication. This has indications for people looking to come off their medications in a safer way, but we need to stay connected to the practices to continue to grow and maintain the gains.
I’ve been teaching MBCT for a number of years now because my own experience tells me of the benefits of practicing mindfulness to come down from a story telling mind and ground back into the reality of the present moment. With depression it’s a natural fit as part of the depressive cycle is getting caught in convincing and believable stories of the mind that “nothing’s going to change, I can’t help myself, and no one can help me,” closing the doorway to hope.
Add in some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps take behavioral action when we notice the triggers to relapse and you have a very good formula for stopping that cycle and taking action toward greater health and well-being.
Now, here’s the critical element we need to be aware of.
People think they can take MBCT and after 8 weeks have the tools to guard against relapse into depression. While that may be true, the brain has a strong inclination to fall back into old patterns, leaving us ready to the adage, “out of sight out of mind.”
So, even after the MBCT class, as this research suggests, we need to maintain one form of treatment. One way to do this with the practices is to stay connected to some form of community that helps us continue to practice the skills we learned in these courses. Otherwise, it loses its salience in our lives and we’re simply more likely to just forget about it as relapse comes our way.
So, my suggestion is even after taking a mindfulness-based (MB) course to seek out a community of peers that will encourage you to maintain the practice and be there to answer any questions that arise.
Bob Stahl and I created such a community for A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook for this exact reason. People come, ask questions, connect with others and keep the philosophies and practices on the tip of their minds. The fact of the matter is many people either don’t have the access to a local or secular mindfulness community or simply find themselves too busy to go. An 8-week course is doable, but ongoing seems like too much.
You can stay connected to practice and community and with the click on your mouse and continue to grow from where you left off in these courses, but if you let the connection slide, the odds are it’s just more likely to lose much of the benefit from these courses.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.