Purpose of review: The article reviews the recent evidence for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for patients with residual depressive symptoms or in remitted patients at increased risk for relapse.
Recent findings: Randomized controlled trials have shifted focus from comparing MBCT with treatment-as-usual to comparing MBCT against interventions. These studies have provided evidence for the efficacy of MBCT on par with maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy and leading to a relative reduction of risk on the order of 30-40%. Perhaps fuelled by these data, recent efforts have focused on extending MBCT to novel populations, such as acutely depressed patients, those diagnosed with health anxiety, social anxiety, fibromyalgia, or multiple chemical sensitivities as well migrating MBCT to online platforms so that it is more widely available. Neuroimaging studies of patients in structured therapies which feature mindfulness meditation, have reported findings that parallel behavioral changes, such as increased activation in brain regions subsuming self-focus and emotion regulation (prefrontal cortex) and interoceptive awareness (insula).
Summary: The current evidence base for MBCT is strongest for its application as a prophylactic intervention or for residual depressive symptoms, with early data suggesting additional indications outside the mood disorders. Future work will need to address dose-effect relationships between mindfulness practice and clinical benefits, as well as establishing the rates of uptake for online MBCT so that its benefits can be compared to in-person groups. Additionally, validating current or novel neural markers of MBCT treatment response will allow for patient matching and optimization of treatment response.