People with severe and recurrent depression could benefit from a new form of therapy that combines ancient forms of meditation with modern cognitive behaviour therapy, early-stage research by Oxford University psychologists suggests.
The results of a small-scale randomised trial of the approach, called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), in currently depressed patients are published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.
28 people currently suffering from depression, having also had previous episodes of depression and thoughts of suicide, were randomly assigned into two groups. One received MBCT in addition to treatment as usual, while the other just received treatment as usual. Treatment with MBCT reduced the number of patients with major depression, while it remained the same in the other group.
Professor Mark Williams and colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford will follow up the promising preliminary evidence from this small-scale study. They hope to do follow up work with patients to reveal whether MBCT can also help reduce the risk of relapse. The Oxford team are currently carrying out a larger study that will compare MBCT with a group form of cognitive therapy to pinpoint which elements of meditation or talking therapies can help which people.
Professor Williams, who developed the treatment and led this study, said: ‘We are on the brink of discovering really important things about how people can learn to stay well after depression. Our aim is to help people to find long-term freedom from the daily battle with their moods.’
- Barnhofer et al. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a treatment for chronic depression: A preliminary study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.01.019
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