Counteracting Depression with Mindfulness—Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)

Mindfulness means to consciously direct our awareness towards the present instant and the present experience. This “presence” is an important path away from negative thoughts, feelings and judgements that engulf us without us actively seeking them. The mindful basic attitude is free from judgement, friendly and accepting—towards one's self and towards the current experience at any one time.

MBCT is a training programme taught in groups to prevent people who have already suffered from several episodes of depression from falling back. In the course, over a period of eight weeks, participants are introduced to mindfulness practice. Elements of cognitive behavioural therapy are conveyed, specifically tailored for people liable to depression.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is suitable for people who have already experienced three or more depressive episodes, but are currently not acutely depressed. Taking on more responsibility for one's own health is a central objective. Who signs up for an MBCT course enters into a personal commitment: During the eight weeks, one must practise by one's self at home for about 45 minutes a day. The basis for participation is a detailed preliminary discussion with the course instructor.

Typically, eight to twelve participants come together in a group. Certain patterns of thought and behaviour perpetuate depression. During eight evenings and a day of mindfulness participants learn to identify their specific patterns and to observe these without judgement or rejection. The exercises support the systematic development of concentration, mindfulness towards breathing, physical sensuality, thoughts and emotions. At the same time, it is possible to develop and practise the friendly, non-comparing and accepting attitude of mindfulness. Thus, one can improve the understanding of sources of evolving depression. The training also encompasses mindfulness meditation in different postures such as sitting, lying flat, walking as well as gentle exercises chosen from Hatha yoga. These can also be carried out well in case of physical disabilities.

Content-wise, the following subjects are covered: the “autopilot”—automated thought processes and habits, dealing with difficult thoughts, feelings and self-beliefs, caring for one's self and identifying as well as being able to avert a possible relapse into depression. Transferring the acquired skills into daily life is a particular focal point. The debriefing with every single participant concludes the course. CDs and printed documentation are available to support practice during and after the course.

MBCT was specifically developed by the professors Segal, Teasdale and Williams in order to prevent depressive relapses, since they occur much too frequently even after a complete recovery from a depressive episode. Studies have proven that MBCT training can clearly reduce this risk of relapse. For further information consult: MBCT is based on a programme for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which was developed by professor Jon Kabat-Zinn. Long-term studies have shown that MBSR can contribute to increased self-acceptance, reduces the experience of suffering from pain, facilitates stress reduction, and enables participants to handle relationships more positively.

MBCT and MSC Dates

Courses usually start in spring and autumn respectively. Prospective participants may apply year-round.

Please download the MBCT / MSC flyer here (in German).