The effectiveness of self-help mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in a student sample: a randomised controlled trial

Behav Res Ther. 2014 Dec;63:63-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2014.09.007. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) involves approximately twenty hours of therapist contact time and is not universally available. MBCT self-help (MBCT-SH) may widen access but little is known about its effectiveness. This paper presents a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of MBCT-SH for students. Eighty students were randomly assigned to an eight-week MBCT-SH condition or a wait-list control. ANOVAs showed significant group by time interactions in favour of MBCT-SH on measures of depression, anxiety, stress, satisfaction with life, mindfulness and self-compassion. Post-intervention between-group effect sizes ranged from Cohen's d = 0.22 to 1.07. Engagement with MBCT-SH was high: participants engaged in mindfulness practice a median of two to three times a week and 85% read at least half the intervention book. Only 5% of participants dropped out. This is the first published RCT of MBCT-SH and benefits were found relative to a control group. MBCT-SH has the potential to be a low-cost, readily available and highly acceptable intervention. Future research should include an active control condition and explore whether findings extend to clinical populations.

Keywords: Bibliotherapy; MBCT; Mindfulness; Self-help; Students.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Care
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Students