What is Mindfulness based cognitive therapy and how does it work?

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Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was designed to help people who battle depression break negative thinking patterns. MBCT combines the use of mindfulness techniques with cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT). While CBT helps the individual build skill sets that provide an outlet for them to be aware of their thoughts and emotions, mindfulness helps the individual learn to be attentive and aware during the present moment. Through combining these two techniques, MBCT can help ease stress and depression by teaching people to pay attention to the present moment and to focus on developing new thought processes. (NIMH 2015)

Once a patient has developed a healthy and trusting relationship with a therapist, utilizing MBCT will help him or her learn how to recognize physical reactions to certain triggers through breathing, heartbeat and any continuous thoughts he or she might be having. Being able to control how one’s thoughts respond to fear, negative worldviews or projections of the future can aid in bringing the mind back to a clarified state.

Practicing mindfulness as a daily ritual while combining it with cognitive behavioral therapy encourages the individual to recognize the thought or thoughts that precede an unwanted behavior or habit. This practice can also aid in finding peace with the idea that the thought is not a fact. The patient can journal and use CBT inventory worksheets to explore negative thoughts or worldviews so patients start to see the recurring habits or unwanted behavior following negative thoughts. This way they can begin to learn how their mind is controlling their actions. The most important aspect of mindfulness based cognitive therapy is helping individuals to develop the ability to increase awareness of the present moment, triggers, negative emotions and reactions.

Mindfulness based cognitive therapy helps patients with a multitude of things. This therapeutic method can provide help for:

  • Identifying and recognizing the experienced thought
  • Understanding that an unwanted thought isn’t a fact
  • Paying attention to tightened muscles, breathing and heart rate
  • Tracking the occurrence of the thought through CBT worksheets or journaling, with little emphasis on whether the thought is positive or negative
  • Focusing attention on ways of accepting the pain that results from the thought or fear of a challenging experience
  • Accepting the challenge to try new ways of thinking

MBCT focuses on a few key points. These include prioritizing one’s difficulties, assessing negative views and thoughts and assessing behaviors and precipitating thoughts. These three main aspects of MBCT each work in their own ways to help the individual.

  • Prioritizing difficulties: Making a list of problems can be useful in identifying the psychological, social, occupational and financial issues a person is facing. This might be a list of 10 prioritized items that the patient would like to focus on the most. This is helpful in determining the problem, frequency of the problem, severity and impact of the problem (Cully; Tetan 2008)
  • Assessment of negative views and thoughts: Assessing negative worldviews or thoughts can allow the therapist to understand negative worldviews and thoughts that may need restructuring (Cully; Tetan 2008)
  • Assessing behaviors and precipitating thoughts: A therapist assesses a patient’s behaviors and impulsive ideas that will allow him or her to work on identifying thoughts or emotions that trigger difficulties. A therapeutic modality utilized during assessment of these behaviors is called the Antecedents, Behavior, Consequences (ABC) Model and is a way to examine thoughts and feelings that precede and follow certain behaviors.This also helps the patient and therapist recognize the antecedent or event that occurs before the unwanted behavior or destructive thought. (Cully; Tetan 2008)

If you would like more information on how mindfulness based cognitive therapy works or how it could help you or your loved one, you can call the Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178 to speak to a member of our team.

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