Is Mindfulness Therapy Just as Effective as Antidepressants?

Doctors, therapists, and mental health advocateWoman wonderings have long advised people experiencing depression to consider both medication and psychotherapy. Medication doesn’t always work, though, and even when it does, it can take months to find the right drug and determine the right dose. For some people, the wait is too long. Others are concerned about the potential side effects.

If you struggle with depression and are reticent to try medication, there’s good news. A study published in The Lancet argues that mindfulness-based therapies can be just as effective at treating depression as popular antidepressants.

Mindfulness Therapy for Depression

Researchers tracked 424 people diagnosed with major depression for two years. Half of the group took antidepressants, while the other half pursued mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The therapy group participated in eight two-hour group sessions and received tips on techniques to practice at home. When the sessions were complete, participants could opt to attend four more sessions. Those taking antidepressants took the drugs for the full two-year duration of the study.

At the end of the study, both groups saw similar rates of depression relapse. Forty-four percent of those in therapy experienced a relapse, compared to 47% of those taking medication. This suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be just as effective as—and perhaps even slightly more effective than—medication.

Does the Type of Therapy Matter?

A variety of therapeutic interventions can help treat depression. Indeed, research suggests that cognitive therapy on its own can reduce the rate of relapse. Some people in therapy may find the method dry and impersonal, though. Mindfulness-based approaches may make therapy feel more personal. Though researchers don’t yet know if mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is more effective than traditional cognitive therapy, the way a person feels about therapy can affect therapeutic outcomes. Thus, a person who feels more comfortable with a mindfulness-based approach may be more likely to stick with therapy and get better.


Reinberg, S. (2015, April 21). Mindfulness-based therapy as good as meds for depression, study says. Retrieved from

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  • Dexter

    April 23rd, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    Good luck convincing the pharmaceutical companies of that! Or admitting that I guess I should say!

  • Kal

    April 24th, 2015 at 3:58 AM

    For anybody who doubts how powerful mindfulness is for the treatment of depression, take a look at the blog post by James Gordon. He totally explains the science behind how a negative mind fuels depression and how your thoughts are literally designing your future.

  • Michelle

    April 24th, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    If I knew that I could improve my overall mental health and well being without having to take antidepressants then this is the choice that would feel right for me. I have never prescribed to the idea that a pill can cure all. I have never wanted to be in the position to think like that> I think that above all else unless it is an immediate life or death situation I am always going to look first for things that are non invasive and perhaps even a little more alternative, because I think that there can be real healing and power in some things that we have not allowed ourselves to fully explore just yet.

  • Ross

    April 25th, 2015 at 11:44 AM

    At the same time if a person is committed to getting well and finds that antidepressants are the key to that then I think that they will have much more success than without them.

  • tova

    April 26th, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    I have always felt that if someone is given something in way that made it feel like it is worth fighting for them it gives them something to work toward, a goal to achieve. I am certain that in many instances this is what it is like when you choose therapy over medication, that you then have something that you feel like you have total control over, and how much more meaningful this is going to be to you to know that you have conquered this through power and work, rather than depending on a medication that may pr may not in the end wind up working for you.

  • aiden

    April 27th, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    Again another one of those things that has to be determined on an individual basis, and not on some study that shows what worked best for a group.
    Look at each person to determine what works best for their issues right now.

  • Stacy O

    May 3rd, 2015 at 12:10 AM

    I love all the research on mindfulness. I personally find meditation and other mindfulness techniques to help in so many ways. When I meditate regularly, I feel happier and calmer, and I feel a stronger sense of purpose in my life.

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