Zindel Segal

Zindel Segal

Zindel Segal is a contemporary psychiatrist who developed mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). 

Professional Life

Zindel Segal studied psychology as an undergraduate at McGill University. After receiving his PhD from Queen’s University in 1983, Segal worked at the Toronto Western Hospital from 1984–1986. He began teaching at the University of Toronto in 1986, where he is currently a professor of psychiatry. Segal is also the head of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Clinic of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Segal’s career has focused on the prevention and treatment of depression. Segal developed mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) with Mark Williams and John Teasdale in an effort to help people avoid relapse after a major depressive episode. Segal has received the Hope Award from the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, as well as the Douglas Utting Prize for his work and insight into treatment for depression. 

Contribution to Psychology

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) incorporates elements of conventional cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness meditation and was inspired by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR).

Rather than encouraging people to change their thoughts, MBCT attempts to teach people to think differently about their thoughts. Like other contemplative approaches, MBCT helps people learn to focus on their thoughts without judgment and to consider how some habitual thoughts can trigger a downturn in mood. Rather than attempting to eliminate negative thoughts altogether, people are encouraged to learn how to move from negative thoughts to positive ones without dwelling on unpleasant emotions.

An MBCT program is an eight-week course that consists of one two-hour session each week, with an additional day-long session after week five. Students are also encouraged to use guided meditation techniques, breathwork, and other strategies to encourage mindfulness outside of class. Those who are unable to attend the courses might benefit from following the steps outlined in the book The Mindfulness Way through Depression and its accompanying CD. The book was a collaborative effort between Segal, Teasdale, Williams, and Kabat-Zinn.

Segal originally developed MBCT to prevent relapse in patients experiencing depression, but has expanded the approach to include a wide variety of psychiatric symptoms. MBCT is an empirically validated approach to therapy and the treatment of depression, and several studies have found it to be effective. 

Books by Zindel Segal

Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression (1999)
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2002)
Depression and the Self (1997)
The Self in Emotional Distress (1993)
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (2007)


  1. Dr. Zindel Segal. (n.d.). Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/research/about_research_at_CAMH/scientific_staff_profile/Pages/Zindel-Segal.aspx
  2. Kingston, T., Dooley, B., Bates, A., Lawlor, E., & Malone, K. (2007). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for residual depressive symptoms. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 80(2), 193-203. doi: 10.1348/147608306X116016

Last Update: 07-23-2015

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