CBT and Mindfulness are a powerful therapeutic combination for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.
Both depression and anxiety can make everyday life very challenging. It is well researched and documented how helpful CBT is in treating depression and anxiety, in the UK it is the NICE recommended treatment for mild to moderate mental health problems of many kinds. There is now a growing body of evidence showing the benefits of mindfulness meditation on a range of mental health problems.
A recent example of the efficacy of mindfulness meditation was published earlier this year in the journal Psychiatry Research. The results showed that participants who learned mindfulness meditation techniques showed much lower levels of a specific biomarker for stress in the body than participants who did not use the meditation techniques. This could suggest meditation can not only help how someone feels over time, but also may leave an impression on a cellular level.
Now imagine how helpful it would be to combine the two approaches!
I believe (and have seen in my own practice) that using meditation and mindfulness techniques alongside conventional cognitive and behavioral interventions when treating depression and anxiety can be very effective. The mindful approach to CBT allows people to see the erratic nature of the mind and the habits of the mind as transient phenomena; cognitive therapy teaches how to recognise unhelpful thinking styles and reactions. Integrating a mindful attitude to the cognitive therapy teaches acceptance of, without the need to react to, unhelpful thoughts. The transition over time of working in this way allows a person to learn more about their own reactivity (which often comes from a stress reaction) and learn ways of becoming more responsive ( the response coming from a more rational and wise perspective).
The behavioral component of mindful therapy promotes habit reversal, this is where activities that are emotionally or physically depleting are replaced with more nourishing activities. This approach is similar in both CBT and mindfulness therapy, the difference being that with a mindful approach we learn to slow down and really be present for the behaviors that fill our everyday lives (see my blog on mindfulness in the every day for some examples). This mindful attention promotes a tendency to really notice and appreciate a lot of what we usually take for granted, or simply don’t see when we live life in ‘busy mode’ rushing from one thing to the next.