John Teasdale

John Teasdale

John Teasdale is a contemporary psychologist and the co-founder of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Professional Life

Teasdale worked at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit of the University of Oxford, Cambridge, and also as a research scientist at the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford. He has researched the psychological processes behind emotional problems, specifically depression. His treatment and prevention research has focused on cognitive therapies and mindfulness.

Teasdale has been recognized by the American Psychological Association with their prestigious Distinguished Scientist Award. He has also been elected a Fellow at the Academy of Medical Sciences and the British Academy. Teasdale is retired, though he still teaches mindfulness and meditation privately.

Contribution to Psychology

In 1991, alongside Phil Barnard, Teasdale developed a theory of the mind he called interacting cognitive subsystems. This model argues that the mind can operate in multiple modes, each of which is responsible for processing new information on both an intellectual and cognitive level.

From this theory mindfulness-based cognitive therapy grew. Developed by John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Mark Williams, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is based on the mindfulness-based stress reduction program designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Teasdale studied cognitive therapies for years and developed MBCT as a viable and effective form of treatment for the prevention of depression relapse. MBCT combines traditional cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness and other contemplative approaches.

Like meditation, MBCT helps a person learn to accept emotions and thoughts in a nonjudgmental way, in order to identify them more clearly. By gaining awareness of and control over one's thoughts, a person struggling with depression can work to counteract automatic negative thoughts. MBCT also strives to help participants avoid ruminating on negative emotions rather than simply ignoring unpleasant feelings. The therapy places a strong emphasis on not judging oneself or one's thoughts.

Conducted in a group setting over the course of eight weekly sessions, MBCT has a strong focus on practice. Every course lasts two hours, and after five weeks, participants attend a day-long course. Participants also do homework such as guided meditations, thought logs, and other tools designed to promote mindfulness.

Some therapists have begun using this approach with other disorders, such as schizophrenia, but there has not been much clinical research on MBCT's effectiveness with other mental health issues, outside of depression. For the treatment of depression, MBCT is an empirically validated approach.

References:

  1. People. (n.d.). Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. Retrieved from http://mbct.co.uk/mbct-programme-developers/
  2. Kuyken, W., Byford, S., Taylor, R. S., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., Teasdale, J. D. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in recurrent depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(6), 966-978. doi: 10.1037/a0013786

Last Update: 07-07-2015

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