MBCT - Clinical Applications for Anxiety and Depression

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy is a multifaceted construct that envelops concepts including nonjudgement, acceptance, present awareness, attention and intention. These components are required to be present in order to experience mindfulness, Ivanovski and Mahli (2007).

Individuals are invited to experience the present moment in a different way. Unlike CBT which views reality from a cognitive process model, MBCT embodies cognition by processing incoming information through the body. Embodied cognition integrates the experience of body, mind and world illuminating the effect each has on the other. Consequently this influences the type of mind we choose to have, Craig (2004).


Mindfulness based approaches form the 'third wave' of cognitive behavioural therapies. All emphasise mindfulness as a core component in understanding, and relating differently to, damaging cognitive, emotional and behavioural patterns. These therapies aim to increase awareness and acceptance of difficulty so that lives are lived more skilfully.

Meditation in MBCT involves paying attention in the present moment regardless of the negative experience that arises, be it thought, sensation, emotion or memory. This strategy reduces behavioural avoidance and negative affect, allowing for the acceptance of negative experience. Consistent with CBT, mindful attention creates a desensitisation mechanism which decreases negative affect and may improve psychological health, Allen et al (2006).

The attitudinal foundation of mindfulness practice includes, non-judging, patience, beginners mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. As awareness increases, internal balance is restored and clients can live healthier and more adaptive lives, Kabat-Zinn (1996). It was suggested by Safran and Segal (1990) that psychological change can occur when ‘decentering’ from negative thought. This allows a person to become objective about their experience and reconnect with the present moment. Research has shown during periods of depression, negative mood occurs along with negative thinking and fatigue. When the depressive episode abates and mood returns to normal, the negative thinking and fatigue tend also to abate. However a connection has formed between mood and negative thinking patterns. This connection is important as low mood reactivates ruminative thought patterns creating vulnerability to further episodes of depression.

MBCT helps shift to an alternative mode of mind by changing mental gears, moving from a mode of mind coloured by critical thinking to a mode of mind in which we experience the world directly, non-conceptually and non-judgementally. It is for this reason that it is an essential requirement of MBCT teachers to maintain a regular meditation practice. Practitioner commitment to practice is vital to patient participation. A practitioner is unlikely to be able to properly understand or teach the practice without having substantially experienced it themselves. The teacher of mindfulness may be ‘teaching without words’ by their modelling of mindfulness as they run the group, Allen et al (2006). This is at odds with the CBT tradition which does not expect clinicians to engage in regular CBT interventions in order to practice CBT methods, Baer 2003.

Psychological theory underpinning the workshop

MBCT has been developed from MBSR as a way of preventing relapse and recurrence in depression. It does so by helping individuals make a radical shift in their relationship to their thoughts. Emphasis is placed on the acceptance of negative cognition. This shift in emphasis gradually breaks down the discrepancy based processing mode of mind that underpins rumination.

Drawing on attentional control training, MBCT perspective aims to enable present moment awareness so that mood swings would be noticed at an earlier juncture. Awareness takes up cognitive processing availability which weakens rumination. Akin to metacognitive processing this leads to a decentred experience, Segal et al (2002). By allowing for a moment by moment experience to fill the ‘attentional workspace’, the tendency for attention to wander from the present moment reduces. As with CBT, this can result in desensitisation of conditioned responses. With sustained exposure to difficulty there is a reduction in avoidance behaviour, Baer (2003).

There also appears to be a change in negative cognition as a result of viewing thought as an impermanent experience. There is a reduction in meaning that is apportioned to this. From the perspective of MBCT consistent mindful observation of negative thought, as it arises, allows the client to observe depressogenic thoughts and shift attention to the breath. This interrupts ruminative patterns.

Learning outcomes and objectives

  • To teach the psychological theory of MBCT
  • To illustrate the implementation of psychological theory in the MBCT approach 3. To offer an experiential practice of MBCT
  • To enhance knowledge in the origin of MBCT
  • To increase knowledge in the current research of MBCT for anxiety and depression
  • To gain awareness of embodied cognition and the importance of MBCT facilitators to be an embodiment of the practice.


Lisa Harrison is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who specialises in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. She has trained in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine. Subsequently, she has completed a mindfulness teacher training intensive at the Centre for Mindfulness, Research and Practice at the University of Bangor, North Wales. She is currently undertaking further studies and research into mindfulness with Professor Mark Williams and colleagues at the University of Oxford.

Jenny Nam is a final year Trainee Counselling Psychologist at City University, London and is co-facilitating this event. She works at Cwm Taff NHS Trust where she is based in a Community Mental Health Team serving an Adult Mental Health population. She specialises in CBT and Person Centred Approaches and is continually developing her skills in third-wave cognitive therapies such as Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

Target audience

Counselling psychologists and allied health professionals with a developing interest in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.

Booking Information

Workshop fee

  • Society members: £130 (+VAT)
  • Others: £195 (+VAT)

How to book

This event is fully booked.


Society's London Office

30 Tabernacle Street



Fri, 25/11/2011 -
09:00 to 17:00
BPS Learning Centre