Group mindfulness training is as effective as the established psychological treatment for depression, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), a new Swedish study finds.
The research, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, involved 215 primary healthcare patients across Sweden (Sundquist et al., 2014).
People in the study, who were experiencing depression and anxiety, were randomised into one of two groups.
The first received mostly individual CBT, a well-established therapy which tries to change emotional and cognitive responses.
The second received mindfulness training in groups of 10.
Rather than changing thoughts and feelings as in CBT, the mindfulness training is more about accepting them.
People were taught to notice their thoughts while treating the self with more compassion.
Mindfulness helps people to realise that anxious thoughts and feelings are not necessarily part of the self and can be observed ‘from the outside’.
Both groups were treated over an eight-week period and at the end both had improved by the same amount.
This study builds on previous research from 47 clinical trials which has found that meditation can be as effective as antidepressants in treating depression, anxiety and pain.
Professor Jan Sundquist, who led the study,
“The study’s results indicate that group mindfulness treatment, conducted by certified instructors in primary health care, is as effective a treatment method as individual CBT for treating depression and anxiety.
This means that group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy, especially at primary health care centres that can’t offer everyone individual therapy.”
Given that more people can be helped by fewer clinicians using this method, it’s hoped that treatment will become more accessible.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Brandon Warren