MBCT is short for Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and was originally developed in the 1990s as a group-based relapse prevention programme for people at risk of depressive relapse who wish to learn long-term skills for staying well.
MBCT combines systematic training in mindfulness with elements of cognitive-behavioural therapy. MBCT has been recommended by NICE since 2004. The evidence-base for MBCT is expanding at a rapid rate and research suggests it’s a helpful approach across a wide range of contexts (e.g. organisations including businesses and schools), and can be helpful across a broad range of physical and psychological problems.
Evidence also suggests that regular mindful awareness practice of being in the moment, changes how our body and brain respond to stress, possibly strengthening connections in the prefrontal cortex and reducing reactivity in our limbic system, supporting self-reflection and self-regulation. These functions also play a critical role in our overall health and wellbeing.
The goal with CBT is to develop a consistent awareness of thoughts and reactions that may lead to anxiety and depression and uses cognition to help you notice when you are becoming triggered into negativity. MBCT is not analytical but it does require that you complete an MBCT Daily Journal on thoughts and emotions after carrying out practical exercises.
MBCT sessions are quite different to CBT in that you will integrate things like focusing on your breath, the body scan where you observe sensations in your body and sitting meditation. In this way, it can be a ‘feeling’ process. It can be seen as experiential, not just analytical, and although it still involves a lot of work with recognising thought patterns it is much more ‘body-based’ than CBT. The focus is on accepting thoughts as they arise. Instead of trying too hard to understand the thought, would it be OK to just accept the thought without judgement and letting it drift from your mind without attaching too much meaning to it.
One of the important aspects of MBCT is that it teaches the best way to notice these triggers and to manage stress and anxiety is to develop ongoing awareness and acceptance of the present moment.
The greater and more consistent your awareness of the present moment, the more likely it is you will catch the negative thought spirals and choose to disengage from distressing moods or worries.
Further information and access to research material can be found from the www.eftandmindfulness.com website.
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