Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: An Effective Approach To Preventing Depression Relapse

If you take prescription antidepressants and want to stop, you may worry that you'll develop symptoms of depression again. A type of psychological treatment known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is something you may be interested in. Many people have good results with this therapy. 

About Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

This therapy teaches people to observe their thoughts without attaching judgments or becoming fixated on them. It allows people to get some emotional distance when thoughts turn negative. They can respond in a healthy way and release those thoughts instead of ruminating on them. Viewing their inner world from the perspective of a detached but empathetic outsider allows them to maintain emotional stability.

The client gains practice with meditation, during which the idea is to keep the mind free of thoughts. Any that arise are simply observed and released. The counseling sessions cover guidelines on observing and releasing thoughts while doing basic daily tasks, such as showering and doing dishes. 

Mindful activities such as yoga are encouraged. Group sessions are common.

After completing all the therapy sessions, patients should be able to continue practicing mindfulness on their own. They are encouraged to seek assistance again whenever they feel the need.

Relevant Research

Persons who have a history of depression tend to feel progressively worse when thoughts about past unpleasant events enter their minds. They have trouble letting go of those thoughts and instead tend to obsess about them. This can lead to a repetitive cycle of depression broken up by spells of feeling better. 

A study published in 2015 compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with antidepressant medication for the effectiveness of preventing relapse of depression. The results for both treatments were similar. Although mindfulness therapy doesn't appear to be significantly more effective at preventing relapse, it allows many individuals to stop taking medication that may cause side effects. 


The treatment is begun when someone is not in the throes of depression. It is intended to prevent a relapse, not to alleviate current symptoms.

The therapy doesn't work for everyone, so it's not a magic solution. Relapse rates are relatively high both for patients taking antidepressants and those completing mindfulness therapy. The 2015 study found that 44 percent of people in the therapy group experienced a relapse, compared with 47 percent of those taking medication. 

What You Can Do Now

Seek out a counselor who offers this type of therapy and schedule an appointment. Don't stop taking your antidepressant medication without your doctor's supervision; you may need to wean off the drugs slowly to prevent withdrawal effects. Mindfulness therapy may provide the chance to be free of both depressive symptoms and unwanted medication side effects. 

For more information, contact a counselor, such as those at the Center for Relationships.