I read a great article last week about how mindfulness is just as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) at treating anxiety and depression. For those of you that don't know, CBT is a relatively common methodology of talk therapy in which "negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders."
The article, written by Lecia Bushak, discusses new scientific research out of Lund University in Sweden. The Swedish research team conducted an experiment on 215 participants in a primary care setting, who had reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. The participants were randomly assigned to traditional one-on-one CBT talk therapy or to 10-person group mindfulness treatments with follow-up home mindfulness exercises. At the end of the 8-week test period, both groups showed significant improvement, but interestingly, the mindfulness group improved just as much as the CBT talk therapy group. This result adds to the growing scientific understanding of the power of mindfulness to support our mental and physical well-being. This result is also good news to primary care providers and their patients. The success of the group setting mindfulness approach means that providers that are already strapped for time and resources can get more patients the help they need and patients can get that help at a lower cost.
As a side note... there is a slowly growing understanding among anxiety researchers that CBT may, at times, perpetuate anxieties rather than help treat them. For instance, one of the common behaviors associated with anxiety is to repetitively prepare for a worst-case scenario. If you have anxiety, you have definitely done this! CBT would call for the patient/client to identify the repetitive thought and apply logic and reason to determine why the thought is not valid or necessary. However, in many cases, it is this exact behavior - trying to reason why a thought or sensation does not matter - that perpetuates the anxious thinking. That was certainly my personal experience with CBT, an experience echoed by many of my clients.