What’s the Difference between CBT and Mindful CBT or Mindfulness-based CBT?
So what is the Difference between CBT and Mindful CBT (also known as M-CBT)? Well, CBT forms the basis of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, known as MBCT. But MBCT has even more layers. Think of Mindful CBT as CBT with life-changing extras.
What is CBT?
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is known as a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by shifting the way you think and behave. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into small, objective parts.
Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT looks at your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from the past.
CBT is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression but research has shown that CBT is effective in treating PTSD, OCD, and schizophrenia, among many others. It is widely used and recognised by therapists and treatment programmes as well as being more commonly recognised amongst the general public.
CBT is based on the insight that our emotions are a result of our thoughts. When our thinking is distorted, we have negative emotional reactions.
What is Mindful CBT (M-CBT)?
Mindful CBT derives from Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) which is a type of group therapy that includes cognitive therapy, meditation, and mindfulness. Mindful CBT is a bit like individualised version of MBCT, but offered in 1:1 setting instead of the group, at the pace that suits you and your life.
When undergoing mindful CBT, the mindfulness practices become a fundamental vehicle of change. And it happens during 1:1 sessions. By practising Mindfulness and CBT together you experience an incredible life-changing therapy that offers profound results.
Some mindfulness practices used in mindfulness-based CBT include;
- Awareness of breath
- Body scan exercise
- Mindful stretching
- Informal Mindfulness
- Breathing Space Practice
Like CBT, M-CBT also works on the idea that our thoughts are the cause of our emotions. However, in M-CBT we are taught to deal with those thoughts in a slightly different way.
Instead of challenging irrational thinking and replacing those thoughts with more rational ones (CBT approach), M-CBT teaches you to separate yourself from your thoughts, in a process called “de-centering.” In M-CBT, the issue is not the thoughts themselves, but your focus on believing the thoughts to be true, as if they were facts.
MBCT and M-CBT both teach you to witness your thoughts, to look at them objectively without judgements, stepping back from their emotional load so you have more clarity. This way you can view them from a dispassionate observer perspective rather than reacting to them as if they were true. By working in this way you are able to break the automatic cycle of a difficult event leading to a distorted thought or judgement, which leads to, or enhances, negative emotion.
How is CBT and M-CBT Delivered?
CBT and M-CBT are delivered individually as opposed to MBCT which is a group intervention. All these methods require the participant to invest in practising the techniques outside of the professional setting, at home in between sessions. This means you need to commit to doing the homework to experience the most profound results.
M-CBT is based on mindfulness meditation, specifically the mindfulness-based stress reduction method, (or MBSR developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn 40 years ago) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT developed in the 90s). All mindfulness-based approaches teach you how the brain functions during depressive episodes and stressful situations and provide you with meditation techniques designed to increase your mindful attention, non-judgemental attitude and self-kindness.
Studies have found that just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation is enough to change the structure of the brain and start causing positive changes in your emotional reactions and behaviour. The Mindfulness-based CBT is intended to teach you the skills so you can keep practising on your own. People generally find that the longer they practice, the better they feel.
The cycle of rumination and the downward spiral
If people replay negative situations in their heads, or worry about what they could have done differently, they might become ruminative thinkers. This may be a roadblock to overcoming depression.
According to a study published in Psychological Science, people with depression have a more challenging time shaking negative thoughts than those who are not depressed. That’s because depression can make it feel almost impossible to turn your attention to other things. Basically, the more people ruminate, the more depressed they may become.
Mindfulness can be helpful when someone is suffering from the repetition of negative thoughts, stress, anger, irritability, and low mood. This is because Mindfulness practice can help bring the activation of our sympathetic nervous system down and activate para-sympathetic branch of the nervous system.
Most mental health problems cause stress on the body. Mindfulness-based CBT addresses both ends. First, it reduces the activation in the nervous system making you feel calmer and less reactive, and also reduces the level of cortisol in the body, which in turn will make you feel less stressed.
Mindfulness NICE guidelines
The NICE guidelines were first updated back in 2004 to recognise mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT). Since then, we have seen more mindfulness- based therapies offered in traditional healthcare, such as GP surgeries and other healthcare facilities. Mindfulness-based approaches have since became mainstream and are also being used in Education, Prison Services, and corporate world. It’s exciting to think about how M-CBT is evolving into one of the main healthcare interventions in the future.
Mindfulness in modern healthcare
Mindfulness was incorporated into mainstream healthcare in America over 40 years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In the late 90s, researchers and psychologists from Oxford University incorporated Mindfulness and CBT and created Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as a group programme to stop depressive symptoms returning.
MBCT was developed by therapists Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, who wanted to build on cognitive therapy. However, they recognised that CBT therapy could be more effective by integrating cognitive therapy with a program developed in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
Since the 90s, MBCT has also evolved into 1:1 intervention from group-only therapy and mindfulness-based CBT has been used to help people with anxiety, depression, phobias, eating disorders, and many other health conditions.
Mindfulness-based CBT in Leeds
If you would like to work with me to experience the benefits of mindfulness-based CBT and overcome any of your problems, I recommend you book a session with me to discuss your current situation and make a plan to help you transform your life.
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