J. Mark G. Williams is a clinical psychologist who developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy with colleagues Zindel Segal and John Teasdale. He studied at the University of Oxford and holds positions at the University of Oxford as a Wellcome Principal Research Fellow and a Professor of Clinical Psychology. He has worked for the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and in Cambridge at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Williams is also a Fellow of the British Academy, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the British Psychological Society. Williams’ focus is on the treatment and prevention of depression and suicide, in particular the study of suicidal behavior in people with depression. Studies have shown that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is effective in the prevention of relapse of major depressive episodes and can reduce the chance of relapse by up to fifty percent. Williams continues to explore the possibility preventing suicidal ideation in clients with depression with MBCT.
Contribution to Psychology
Williams is a developer of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT is a form of cognitive therapy designed to decrease and prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes in people suffering from major depression. This discipline integrates various techniques of other therapies, including mindfulness and contemplative approaches. Clients who undergo MBCT are taught how to experience their emotions and feelings in a nonjudgmental way in the present moment. Rather than being directed to ignore or eliminate negative emotions, clients are given the skills to gain a sense of understanding of their emotions, and to realize that they are separate from them. MBCT is conducted in sessions that span eight weeks, during which reactive behaviors are re-patterned so that a client learns how to respond in a new way to emotions and thoughts and breaks the cycle of becoming controlled by negative thought patterns.
Through mindfulness, thoughts are addressed and identified and together with a therapist, a client learns to determine which thoughts are negative and cause distress. With this insight and awareness, a client gains control over their response system and can begin to develop new behaviors in relationship to their emotions and thoughts. MBCT is conducted with a sense of purpose and full awareness of the present, and has been proven to be an extremely effective treatment for people who are at risk for relapsing into a depressive state.