Going to a group mindfulness-based cognitive therapy course is as effective as regularly taking medication when it comes to preventing re-occurring depression, a UK study shows.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy generally includes learning simple skill, such as breathing meditations and yoga stretches, to help you become more aware of the present and noticing moment-to-moment changes in your mind and body.
Therapists provide support so you can learn how to respond to thoughts, feelings and experiences that might otherwise have triggered what’s called a depressive episode.
Depression is a condition that comes and goes for many people. It can make you feel down or hopeless for weeks or months at a time and affects your ability to enjoy life.
If you are living with depression, you may not always experience all symptoms all the time but there will be occasions when symptoms are particularly strong – this is called a major depressive episode.
The UK study, published in The Lancet, follows 424 people who have had three or more major depressive episodes and had been regularly taking an antidepressant.
Half the group attended an eight-week mindfulness-based cognitive group therapy course with refresher sessions offered every three months. During this time they were weaned off their medicine under their doctor’s supervision.
The other half remained on antidepressants, without therapy. The entire group was followed up regularly over two years.
When researchers compared those who attended the therapy course with those who stayed on medication, there was little difference in the number of depressive episodes.
What’s more, the costs of providing a course versus keeping someone on medication are also similar. Both halves of the group reported reduced symptoms and improved quality of life.
Researchers say the study means mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a solid alternative for those who don’t wish to take antidepressants.
Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial The Lancet, 2015
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy and the prevention of relapse in depression Oxford University, 2013
New Zealand research on mindfulness Mental Health Foundation, 2015