What are MBCT & MBSR?

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) are two very similar 8-week mindfulness programs consisting of eight roughly two-hour sessions (one per week). They also include a routine of daily practice at home using guided mindfulness tracks (provided).  MBCT and MBSR have both been shown to be clinically effective in enhancing mental well-being. MBCT and MBSR in their original format are very similar, perhaps 90% the same. As I teach them the courses are even closer together – perhaps 95% the same.  Both courses that I teach are relevant for anyone for enhancing well-being and managing everyday life challenges. The principal difference between the courses is that MBCT includes cognitive therapy components which are not part of the MBSR syllabus, and which are particularly relevant for people vulnerable to depression – though also very useful for all of us.

Should I do MBCT or MBSR?

For more information about the specific differences between the two programs please click here.

Background to MBCT and MBSR

Mindfulness is increasingly being shown to be very helpful both for people who aren’t experiencing any particular difficulties in life, and for those who are. It is now widely used in business, education and even sport. However, the modern ‘wave’ of secular mindfulness began with programs that were originally developed for use in healthcare settings.

MBCT is an integration of most of the MBSR course (developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn), with elements of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). It was originally designed to help people who have a vulnerability to depression and there is strong and growing evidence for its effectiveness. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been used for over 30 years as a program to help people manage the stress of chronic pain and extreme health conditions. In controlled trials it has also been shown to reduce anxiety. In fact, one study has shown MBSR can reduce anxiety by 70%.  Significantly, MBSR has now been shown to reduce stress in healthy people too, and it is used widely around the world now for the general public and in workplace settings.

Similarly, there is now evidence that MBCT can and reduce anxiety brought on by ordinary stressful life situations, as well as enhancing wellbeing and increasing self-compassion.

(For more references to more information about the clinical evidence see the evidence page above).

The MBCT and MBSR course I teach follows the MBCT course program while also including some extra elements from MBSR. This make it relevant for anyone managing general life stress as well as those who are suffering from anxiety or low moods/depression. Both MBCT and MBSR provide extremely valuable skills and an approach to working with life challenges and ordinary life stress which anyone would find helpful. For a more detailed description of the difference between MBCT and MBSR click here

The courses are entirely non- religious while using what are essentially Buddhist meditation practices which awaken us to the richness of our lives, and help us find peace even in the midst of difficult life experience.

What does the course involve?

The entire atmosphere of this course is one of gentle encouragement and shared exploration. All elements of the course are ‘invitational’ so you won’t be expected to do anything you don’t want to do (including speaking in the group). Each of the sessions involves meditation practices (some of which include some gentle movement) and periods where we talk about what emerged during the practice. An important part of the course is daily ‘home practice’ which involves listening to guided meditation practices (you’ll be given CDs with them on). For more detailed information on what’s involved in doing this mindfulness course click here.

When the course is not likely to be helpful?

Unfortunately this course is not likely to be helpful for people who are currently in the midst of a very severe episode of depression. There are also some other situations where doing the course would be inadvisable such as: when there has been a major recent bereavement or trauma of some kind; if someone is prone to experiencing psychosis; or if someone is about to enter a phase of upheaval in their life, such as moving house or starting a new job. These are not ‘hard and fast’ rules- and I’m happy to discuss this with anyone who is in any doubt as to whether this applies to them. I have also included more detailed information about this at the end of the ‘info‘ page on this website.


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