What Is Mindfulness-Based Therapy?

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, you might struggle to practice self-care or know where to turn. With one in five adults in the US diagnosed with a mental illness, many forms of therapy have been developed to offer relief and professional guidance. One popular modern treatment method is mindfulness based therapy, a research-backed psychotherapy that uses aspects of mindfulness and meditation.

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How Does Mindfulness-Based Therapy Work?

Mindfulness therapy teaches clients how to react to their thoughts, environment, and relationships using present-moment techniques to reduce negative emotions and overwhelm. It can combat dissociation, anxiety, worrying thoughts, stress, and chronic pain. 

This process is commonly referred to as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), one of the mindfulness based interventions specifically designed to treat symptoms of recurrent major depressive disorder. A systematic review and meta analysis of randomised controlled trials have shown that MBCT is effective in increasing the chances of symptom remission and reducing the relapse of unwanted behaviors. 

Mindfulness therapy involves changing how you think about yourself and your circumstances using meditative practices and other mindfulness exercises. Instead of automatically responding to events, you can learn to observe them. Observance, acceptance, and labeling are a few common strategies in this technique, helping individuals break negative thought patterns under the guidance of an MBCT therapist.

Judgments may arise for many individuals experiencing depression or another mental health condition. Depressive episodes may increase the likelihood of responding critically to events, and self-criticism or feelings of hopelessness may occur. When clients use mindfulness therapy, they can often objectively observe their situation and negative thoughts, instead of immediately judging themselves or their emotions. It can also allow them to feel centered in their bodies, reducing distressing feelings of losing control.

Although mindfulness can be done at home on your own, a therapist can guide you through the practices and provide emotional support in a group setting. In addition, you can use your session time to discuss any stressors or concerns that might be contributing to your symptoms. Clinical psychology review and psychosomatic research suggest that you do not need to have depression or a mental illness to attend mindfulness-based therapy. These techniques, based on basic principles of mindfulness, may benefit anyone interested in learning them.

Is Mindfulness-Based Therapy Effective? 

Studies have shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy methods can produce positive results. Clients have responded to these treatments quickly, and the therapy is often effective in treating depression. More studies on this method and others involving mindfulness may be done in the future.

If traditional counseling and therapy methods aren't beneficial for you, you might find mindfulness-based counseling effective. This form of therapy can be completed in a group or one-on-one. Many clients of traditional therapy report the return of depression symptoms after a certain period. However, those using MBCT report fewer relapses of symptoms or behaviors after partaking in the modality. 

If you're attending this form of therapy for depression, one of the main goals of therapy is fully understanding and learning about depression. A therapist can help you delve into your symptoms and understand how they impact you. They can work with you to understand what situations might cause symptoms to arise and how you can practice mindfulness in those moments as a prevention strategy. 

Once you have objectively examined your symptoms, you can notice when they occur and why. Mindfulness therapy can help you identify patterns between your thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. For example, extreme self-judgment may cause harm.

Counseling Options 

Those seeking therapy might not seek help out of fear, embarrassment, or shame. In addition, leaving home during a depressive episode can be challenging. Know there are options when it comes to your mental healthcare. Online therapy might benefit you if you're not ready to meet a mental health professional in person. 

Online therapy offers licensed professionals with the same or similar credentials as in-person therapists. The method can be more reachable, cost-effective, and flexible than traditional therapy and allows you to speak to a therapist whenever it is convenient for you to do so. In addition, studies on online mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) found that internet-based interventions were as effective as in-person therapy for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Signing up for a platform like BetterHelp can take a few minutes, and you'll receive a therapist match within 48 hours or less. In addition, you can meet with a provider specializing in your specific symptoms or preferred form of mental health therapy, including those who practice mindfulness-based therapy.  


Mindfulness-based therapy teaches clients how to use the practice of mindfulness to target symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses and symptoms. Mindfulness can involve tactics like deep breathing, sensory awareness, and grounding. If you're interested in trying mindfulness therapy, consider reaching out to a therapist in your area or online to get started.

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