The value of mindfulness therapy by Jo Gee, Psychotherapist at The Priory Hospital Roehampton

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Mindfulness therapy is a popular topic amongst psychological therapists, but is not yet a widely utilised approach within mental healthcare services, even though evidence from clinical trials point towards it being an effective therapy to treat a wide range of mental health problems.

The therapy has been scientifically proven to help patients suffering from a number of mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia. It has also been recommended by the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for patients who have recurrent episodes of depression. In fact, as recently as March this year, it was even reported that schools across the UK have used mindfulness to help students cope with the pressure of the examination season.

Utilising traditional cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) methods and incorporating newer psychological strategies; mindfulness or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), teaches patients to pay attention to every moment as it happens using techniques such as meditation and breathing, to prevent rumination about the past or future. It allows them to let go of negative thoughts, which may tip them over the edge into depression. It also helps patients to become in tune with their own body; helping them to identify the signs of oncoming depression or anxiety and take steps to prevent an episode before it starts. Earlier studies have suggested that MBCT is only effective for patients who have had three or more previous episodes of major depression. However, more recent research has found that patients who have suffered from one or two prior depressive episodes also benefited from therapy.

Extensive clinical trials have demonstrated the value of MBCT, indicating that it is more effective than maintenance dosses of antidepressants in preventing relapse in depression; reducing rates of relapse by 50% amongst patients suffering from recurrent depression. Three in four patients taking an MBCT course alongside antidepressants were able to come off their medication within 15 months. Research has shown that MBCT is fast becoming an acceptable and effective treatment for reducing anxiety and mood symptoms, and increases awareness of everyday experiences in patients with generalised anxiety disorder. With this type of therapy significantly reducing residual depressive symptoms, the quality of life for patients can be improved. 

This is alongside a greater acceptance of thoughts, feelings and the self overall, leading to increased self esteem. Our patients who undertake this course have reported reductions in symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. In turn, our patients find it enables them to sleep better, work more productively and engage in personal relationships effectively, through improved attention and concentration.

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