MBCT is based on the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) eight week program, developed by Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Research shows that MBSR is enormously empowering for patients with chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as for psychological problems such as anxiety and panic.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy grew from this work. Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale adapted the MBSR program so it could be used especially for people who had suffered repeated bouts of depression in their lives.
Mindfulness means learning to pay attention intentionally, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. In MBCT programmes, participants meet together as a class (with a mindfulness teacher) two hours a week for eight weeks. The main ‘work’ is done at home between classes. There is a set of CDs to accompany the programme, which you use to practise on your own at home once a day. In the classes, there is an opportunity to talk about your experiences with the home practices, the obstacles that inevitably arise, and how to deal with them skilfully. Over the eight weeks of the programme, the practices help you:
- To become familiar with the workings of your mind.
- Notice the times when you are at risk of getting caught in old habits of mind that re-activate downward mood spirals.
- Explore ways of releasing yourself from those old habits and, if you choose, enter a different way of being.
- To put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
- Notice small beauties and pleasures in the world around you instead of living in your head.
- Be kind to yourself instead of wishing things were different all the time, or driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
- To find a way so you don’t have to battle with yourself all the time.
- To accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself all the time.