What is Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness therapy (MT) is a researched approach that works to help people achieve a state of being fully present in the present moment, accepting each moment as it arises with patience, non-judgement, and compassion for ourselves. Mindfulness practice requires that one intentionally directs focus away from negative or worrisome thoughts that would otherwise occupy them, and instead observe and accept the present moment as is, regardless of whether it is good or bad.
What does the research say about MT?
In a meta-analysis, researchers found that MT was more effective for treating patients with psychological disorders than it was for treating patients with physical or medical conditions.1 These researchers found that MT did not differ from traditional CBT, Behavioral Therapy, or pharmacological treatments and that level of mindfulness was strongly correlated to clinical outcomes, suggesting the mindfulness is important to MT improvements. Compared to control group, MT group showed clinically significant effects in treating anxiety (high effect size), depression (moderate effect size) and stress in non-clinical patients (moderate to high effect sizes); these gains were maintained at follow-up.1 Another meta-analysis showed that MT was superior in decreasing depression and anxiety in cancer patients, compared to control groups.2 Moreover, MT helped reduce the rate of depression relapse by 40% in patients who have had three or more past episodes of major Depression.3 In a meta-analysis with Somatization diagnoses, patients who had the Irritable Bowel Syndrome diagnosis had an improvement in their quality of life, had less severe symptoms, and had less pain post-MT compared to a randomized control group. Patients in the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/General Somatization group had decreased symptom severity, less depression, and less anxiety post-Mindfulness Therapy compared to a randomized control group.4 It was also noted that patients with fibromyalgia had experienced symptom reduction after having received MT, compared to a randomized control group.4 Multiple meta-analyses of MT indicate that benefits are maintained at follow up. In one meta-analysis, 62% of patients, who were in the MT group and who had experienced 3 or more Major Depressive Episodes, maintained their positive results at 1 year follow-up compared to 38% of the people in the treatment as usual control group; these results were found to be significant.3 Another meta-analysis indicated that breast cancer patients in the mindfulness group had increased spirituality and improved acceptance of emotional states, compared to the control group, at the 2-year follow up.5
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- Khoury B. Lecomte T. Fortin G. Masse M. Therien P. Bouchard V. Chapleau M. Paquin K. Hofmann SG. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 2013;33:763-771.
- Cramer H. Lauche R. Paul A. Dobos G. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for breast cancer – a systematic review and meta-analysis. Current Oncology 2012;19(5):e343-52.
- Galante J. Iribarren Pearce PF. Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Research in Nursing 2013;18(2):133-155.
- Shaheen E. Lakhan SE. Schofield KL. Mindfulness-Based Therapies in the Treatment of Somatization Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS ONE 2013;8(8): e71834.
- Henderson VP. Clemow L. Massion AO. Hurley TG. Druker S. Hebert JR. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychosocial outcomes and quality of life in early-stage breast cancer patients: A randomized trial. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2012;131:99-109.