Background: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an 8-week course developed for patients with relapsing depression that integrates mindfulness meditation practices and cognitive theory. Previous studies have demonstrated that non-depressed participants with a history of relapsing depression are protected from relapse by participating in the course. This exploratory study examined the acceptability and effectiveness of MBCT for patients in primary care with active symptoms of depression and anxiety
Methods: 13 patients with recurrent depression or recurrent depression and anxiety were recruited to take part in the study. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted three months after completing the MBCT programme. A framework approach was used to analyse the data. Beck depression inventories (BDI-II) and Beck anxiety inventories (BAI) provided quantitative data and were administered before and three months after the intervention.
Results: The qualitative data indicated that mindfulness training was both acceptable and beneficial to the majority of patients. For many of the participants, being in a group was an important normalising and validating experience. However most of the group believed the course was too short and thought that some form of follow up was essential. More than half the patients continued to apply mindfulness techniques three months after the course had ended. A minority of patients continued to experience significant levels of psychological distress, particularly anxiety. Statistically significant reductions in mean depression and anxiety scores were observed; the mean pre-course depression score was 35.7 and post-course score was 17.8 (p = 0.001). A similar reduction was noted for anxiety with a mean pre-course anxiety score of 32.0 and mean post course score of 20.5 (p = 0.039). Overall 8/11 (72%) patients showed improvements in BDI and 7/11 (63%) patients showed improvements in BAI. In general the results of the qualitative analysis agreed well with the quantitative changes in depression and anxiety reported.
Conclusion: The results of this exploratory mixed methods study suggest that mindfulness based cognitive therapy may have a role to play in treating active depression and anxiety in primary care.