Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Benefits

Updated August 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Reduce Stress With Mindfulness Techniques.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness based therapy are both effective treatment approaches for mental health issues. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a type of mental health treatment that typically combines principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness meditation. MBCT can treat various mental health conditions, but it can be particularly effective in alleviating depression symptoms. It can come with many benefits, such as reduced stress, improved mood, and increased control over thoughts. You may connect with an MBCT therapist in your local area or through an online therapy platform.

What Is Mindfulness Based Therapy or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy?

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that typically incorporates principles of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is generally thought to be a state of being where one is fully present in the moment and does not judge or react to their thoughts and emotions. The mindfulness practice that is emphasized in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is usually mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is thought to help practitioners understand the concept that thoughts and emotions can come and go and that "you are not your thoughts."

The other main component of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is usually cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely utilized form of psychotherapy, typically used to treat anxiety disorders and depression, among other mental health challenges. It typically focuses on the relationship between one's thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with the ultimate goal of changing behavior. The guiding principle of CBT is generally that our thoughts can influence our feelings, which can influence our behavior, so to change our behavior, we must first change our thoughts. 

Combining the principles of mindfulness and CBT, an MBCT therapist can effectively teach people how to prevent negative thoughts or emotions from triggering a deeper negative state or any harmful behaviors. The mindfulness principles and practices taught during MBCT sessions, such as meditation, can help clients change their relationship with these potential triggers. They may then experience negative thoughts without letting them majorly influence their emotions and behaviors. MBCT may alter one's thought processes so that they do not immediately have a negative emotional response to potentially triggering situations.

Instead, they can understand that there may be alternative ways to respond to these situations and process their emotions. For example, meditation and deep breathing can be effective tools that one can implement in stressful situations or when depressive thoughts occur. Learning these alternative strategies to handle thoughts can prevent potentially triggering thoughts from evolving into a deep depressive state or harmful behavior.

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The combination of traditional CBT with mindfulness practices often helps people break free from their negative thought patterns and learn strategies to manage their depression or anxiety symptoms.

The History Of MBCT

The concept of combining mindfulness practices with traditional therapy to form mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was inspired by a practice known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR was introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and has helped countless people since. Kabat-Zinn developed the program after studying under Buddhist teachers who taught him about Eastern philosophies, including mindfulness. He combined these teachings with his knowledge of Western medicine and psychology to develop MBSR. He first tested the program on hospital patients in chronic pain who were not responding to medication. He taught the patients mindfulness practices in a group setting in hopes that mindfulness could help them see the pain from a different perspective and endure less from it.

Kabat-Zinn's expectations turned out to be largely correct. Patients generally responded positively to the program, and Kabat-Zinn now teaches MBSR around the world. It is also the basis of treatment at his Stress Reduction Clinic within the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Though the first group to try MBSR were chronic pain patients, MBSR can help people with many other challenges learn to view their problems from a more objective standpoint. They may then have less of a strong reaction to their problems, and thus endure less from them. MBSR can help people cope with pain, stress, depression, anxiety, and more. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy typically uses the same mindfulness principles, combined with CBT, to help people cope with many of the same conditions.

The Potential Benefits Of MBCT

Below, discover several potential benefits of this type of therapy.

Gain Control Over Your Thoughts

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can make an impact on patients' lives each day by teaching them how to understand their thought processes and patterns better. This can make it easier to recognize the thoughts and signs that might lead someone down a negative path and prevent it from happening.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy frequently promotes living more mindfully in general, not just during therapy sessions or while practicing meditation. This can help people get out of their heads and connect with the world around them, which can make it less likely for them to spiral down into a dark place when negative thoughts arise. MBCT practitioners are usually more likely to be able to manage their negative or depressive thoughts and ultimately let them go rather than letting the thoughts evolve into a deeper depression or harmful behavior.

Reduce Stress

Along with meditation, another one of the mindfulness practices often emphasized in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is deep breathing. Deep breathing can calm the nervous system in stressful situations, which may help practitioners resist the natural urge to react in those situations instantly.

Mindfulness can also reduce stress because it usually helps practitioners become more aware of the present moment and the world around them, which can spark a greater appreciation for life and lead them to reevaluate their priorities. Additionally, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and general mindfulness practitioners tend to feel less stressed in everyday life and respond better to stressful situations.

Improve Mood

Both cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices have been shown to improve mood and help people who have depression. Even those who do not have depression can benefit from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy by learning how to stop minor feelings of sadness or an unfortunate incident from turning into a deeper state of unhappiness.

When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help some people feel more connected to their purpose in life, thus staving off feelings of worthlessness or feeling lost. This may be because mindfulness allows people to be more tuned in to their surroundings and be more appreciative of their everyday routine and life. When paying attention to what is happening rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted, either by our thoughts or externally, we may not only appreciate things more but notice our impact on the world more than we otherwise would. Mindfulness has also been shown to develop parts of the brain that decrease anxiety and increase feelings of positivity.

Trying Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Implementing Daily Practices

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is most used as a treatment for depression. Those who have episodes of major depression are usually the most likely to experience significant benefits from Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. This is likely because MBCT can help those who live with depression learn how to manage their feelings at the first sign of depression. This often helps them know how to get out of their thoughts and prevent the depressive feelings from turning into a major depressive episode.

Additionally, implementing practices like meditation can help prevent feelings of depression from getting deeper. It can serve as a strategy for those who live with depression to feel a bit better when their depression does begin to impact them. It can be important to note that MBCT is not the only effective treatment for depression. There can be many other treatment options available to you.

Even those who do not live with active depression or mood disorders can benefit from general mindfulness practices, if not mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. In today's world, many people experience some levels of stress, anxiety, or depressive thoughts. Mindfulness practices can help anyone feel more positive, relaxed, and in tune with their surroundings and the people in their life. Some great ways to start incorporating mindfulness and meditative practices into your life may include the following:

  • Mindfulness Meditation: This is one of the components frequently taught in an mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program, but anyone can practice mindfulness meditation. Meditation can facilitate greater awareness and nonjudgment in everyday life. It can also be combined with stretching for an even more self-aware practice. If you are new to meditation, you might try a free guided meditation online or with an app that can facilitate mindful stretching; yoga poses can also help.

  • Mindful Eating: Most people multitask during mealtimes. Try putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and being fully present while you eat to cultivate mindfulness. You may notice that you taste flavors more strongly or feel fuller after your meal. Mindful eating can be a good way to start practicing mindfulness in a small way while demonstrating the benefits it can have when implemented in other areas of life.

  • Switch Up Your Routine: Most people follow the same routine every day, even visiting the same places. You might experiment with making small changes to your routine by taking a different route to work or trying a different cafe for your morning coffee. New experiences and environments can naturally make you more present and aware of your surroundings, potentially making it easy to be mindful.

Reduce Stress With Mindfulness Techniques.

How Therapists Can Help

If you are experiencing depression or other mental health conditions, it can be a good idea to work with an in-person or online therapist to manage your condition. An MBCT therapist can help you become more aware of your negative cognitive processes and teach you techniques to retrain your mind that may manage or reduce your symptoms. Online therapy can add convenience to the therapy process by making it simple to find a therapist who administers MBCT and empowering you to get professional help from the comfort of your home.

According to this study, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be effective when administered online. The 460 participants in the study generally had greater reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms, higher levels of quality of life, and higher rates of remission after undergoing online MBCT.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy generally combines mindfulness meditation with cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to treat a variety of mental health conditions, especially depression. A few potential benefits of this type of therapy can include increased control over thoughts, reduced stress, and improved mood. If you’re interested in trying MBCT for yourself, it can be possible to find a licensed therapist practicing this type of therapy in person or online.

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