Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Our spiritual formation programs incorporate some skills from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. MBCT combines meditation and tools of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help participants learn how to detach from thought patterns that perpetuate and worsen their worries, fears and other negative thoughts that separate them from God’s love.

History of MBCT

MBCT was conceptualized in the mid-1990s by cognitive researchers Zindel Segal, University of Toronto, Mark Williams, University of Oxford, and John Teasdale, University of Cambridge (retired). Their careers had been devoted to researching depression and its treatment with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an approached developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck. While CBT was an effective therapy for single episodes of depression, it wasn’t as effective for recurrent depression when negative thoughts (e.g., fear of relapse) perpetuated and exacerbated depression.

After an exhaustive search, they felt CBT could be even more effective for treating recurrent depression in combination with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a program launched in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts to help cancer patients in physical pain cope more effectively with their anxiety.

Research from around the globe has clearly demonstrated MBCT — the combination of CBT and MBSR — is extremely effective in treating recurrent depression. In recent years, research has turned to using MBCT to treat other disorders with promising results.

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

The benefits of meditation are well documented. In a recent Psychology Today article, Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. lists the benefits with links to research that supports each benefit. Meditation improves physical health, happiness, brain structure, sociability, emotion regulation and focus. Specific benefits include:

  • Increases immune function (See here and here)
  • Decreases pain (see here)
  • Decreases inflammation at the cellular level (See here and here and here)
  • Increases positive emotion (here and here)
  • Decreases depression (see here)
  • Decreases anxiety (see here and here and here)
  • Decreases stress (see here and  here)
  • Increases social connection & emotional intelligence (see here and here)
  • Makes you more compassionate (see here and here)
  • Makes you feel less lonely (see here)l
  • Improves your ability to regulate your emotions (see here)
  • Improves your ability to introspect or self-reflect (see here)
  • Increases grey matter (see here)
  • Increases volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions & self-control (see here and here)
  • Increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention (see here)
  • Increases your focus & attention (see here and here and here and here)
  • Improves your ability to multitask (see here)
  • Improves your memory (see here)
  • Improves your ability to be creative & think outside the box (see research by J. Schoole
  • Increase self-esteem and well-being

Additional benefits of MBCT

MBCT — the combination of meditation with tools of CBT — generates significant benefits in how participants cope with negative thoughts, emotions, destructive urges and body sensations. These include:

  • Encourages participants to notice, accept and name thoughts, emotions, urges and body sensations
  • Helps participants shift from autopilot to intentional decision-making based on what is — not what “should” be
  • Helps participants become aware of and accept negative thoughts without believing they are true.
  • Encourages participants to change their relationship to their own thoughts, feelings, urges and body sensations, so that they have an opportunity to discover that these are fleeting events in the mind and the body which they can choose to engage with – or not
  • Provides skills to notice and accept negative urges and refocus on what is happening in the moment
  • Helps participants to realize that their thoughts, emotions, urges and sensations are just that, rather than ‘truth’ or ‘who I am’
  • Helps participant learn to see more clearly the patterns of the mind, and to recognize when his/her mood is deteriorating or anxiety increasing without adding to the problem by falling into analysis and rumination
  • Helps break the old association between negative mood and the negative thinking or increased stress and excessive worry
  • Helps participants develop the capacity to allow distressing emotions, thoughts, urges and sensations to come and go, without feeling that they have to suppress them, run away from them, or do battle with them
  • Strives to have participants learn to stay in touch with the present moment, without being driven to dwell on the past or worry about the future
  • Provides a foundation on which to develop a life-long practice of meditation and nonjudgment with the goal of strengthening neural pathways that promote continued intentional efforts to manage thoughts, regulate emotions, refocus urges and accept body sensations.

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