MindfulnessCognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been the main go-to for those seeking counselling or psychotherapy, but more and more, researchers are producing evidence that mindfulness techniques can also help.

In cases of depression or social anxiety, for example, therapy allows someone to assess their current situation, reconsider their situation in the light of that assessment, set new attainable goals and then gather the skills to maintain that new assessment.

But from early on in the treatment of social anxiety, it was seen that although therapy yielded high returns in terms of success, there were strong conceptual links between anxiety and mindfulness.

This research from more than a decade ago sums it up nicely:

General Anxiety Disorder is characterizes by a chronic focus on potential events in the future, and GAD worry seems to serve an experientially avoidant function. Thus individuals with GAD are habitually responding to nonexistent perceived threats, rather than focusing on present moment experience… Awareness of present-moment experience and attention to the cues, responses, and contingencies in the present can set the stage for replacing habitual patterns of responding with intentional, flexible ways of responding that are chosen rather than automatic.

Mindfulness techniques and meditation allow people to be aware of stimuli and automatic behaviour by spending time concentrating on the here-and-now.

So there’s been good, strong evidence over the past decade to show why mindfulness would work as well as therapy – and then late last year a study out of Sweden provided empirical evidence that it produces just as good results.

The research, which was led by Professor Jan Sundquist and involved 215 patiets at 16 primary health care centres in the Swedish region of Skane, was conducted because CBT “is in short supply and expensive”.

Sundquist trained two mindfulness instructors at each primary health care centre and then, in early 2012, randomly split patients with depression, anxiety or reactions to severe stress between structured group mindfulness sessions of around 10 patients per group, or regular treatment (mainly one-on-one CBT).

Self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety – as determined by questionaires completed at the start and end of the 8-week treatment – decreased in both groups with no statistical difference between the two treatments.

“The study’s results indicate that group mindfulness treatment, conducted by certified instructors in primary health care, is as effective a treatment method as individual CBT for treating depression and anxiety,” Jan Sundquist was reported as saying. “This means that group mindfulness treatment should be considered as an alternative to individual psychotherapy, especially at primary health care centres that can’t offer everyone individual therapy.”

This, of course, does not discount therapy – and at Robert St Clinic we have a wide range of mental health professionals who can let you know what suits each specific case. But as more and more people see the benefits of mindfulness and types of therapy (such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) which have a framework based on mindfulness so more people are choosing to use it.

If you have any questions about mindfulness skills or therapy which incorporates mindfulness, contact us at Robert St Clinic.