Mark Williams

J. Mark G. Williams is a contemporary psychologist who helped to develop mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

Professional Life

J. Mark G. Williams studied at the University of Oxford, where he is currently a professor of clinical psychology. He taught at the University of Wales, Bangor from 1991–2002, and he established the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice there. Williams also worked as a research scientist in Cambridge at the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit from 1983–1991. Williams’s research has focused on the treatment and prevention of depression and suicide, in particular the study of suicidal behavior in people with depression.

Williams collaborated with Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy, in the 1991 book, Cognitive Therapy in Clinical Practice: An Illustrative Casebook. Much of William’s work draws on Beck's research into depression, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy integrates aspects of cognitive therapy with mindfulness-based approaches

Contribution to Psychology

Williams developed mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in collaboration with John Teasdale and Zindel Segal. MBCT was patterned after Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction program and was originally developed to prevent relapse of a major depressive episode and to reduce the risk of suicide in people who had treatment-resistant depression. Now the technique is used to treat all forms of depression, and some clinicians use MBCT to treat patients experiencing other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and phobias.

MBCT aims to provide people with the skills to experience emotions and feelings in a nonjudgmental way, with an eye toward cultivating awareness of automatic thought processes. A key goal of MBCT is to re-pattern reactive behaviors so that clients can accept negative thoughts without judgment and without dwelling on them and respond to emotions more positively. The basics of MBCT are outlined in the 2007 book, The Mindful Way Through Depression, written by Williams, Segal, Teasdale, and Kabat-Zinn.

MBCT courses span eight weeks and consist of one two-hour session each week. At the end of the fifth week, clients also attend a day-long session. The group sessions are educational in nature, and participants practice their new skills between sessions.

MBCT has been empirically validated through several studies, although researchers don't yet know if it works on disorders other than depression.

Selected Works by J. Mark G. Williams: 

  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (2011) 
  • The Psychological Treatment of Depression (1992)
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse (2001)
  • Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Understanding the Cry of Pain (2001)
  • Cognitive Therapy in Clinical Practice (1991)


  1. J. Mark G. Williams. (n.d.). The University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry. Retrieved from
  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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