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Mindfulness Training as Effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Women meditating with eyes closedCognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has long been regarded as the gold standard for gaining quick relief from the despair depression brings. According to a new Swedish study, though, mindfulness-based group treatment could be just as effective at combating depression as individual CBT.

Mindfulness for Depression

Researchers evaluated a total of 215 people with depression at 16 health care centers in Skane, Sweden. After training two instructors in mindfulness-based practices at each center, researchers randomly assigned each depressed person to either a mindfulness-based treatment group or individual CBT. The mindfulness groups each had 10 patients on average, and participants also received private mindfulness training.

The study lasted eight weeks, with participants answering questionnaires about their symptoms of depression and anxiety both before and after the study. Both groups saw reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression, with no meaningful differences between the two. This suggests that group mindfulness training could be just as effective as traditional psychotherapy, which is often more costly and resource-intensive than group sessions.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a process through which practitioners aim to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, with the goal of increasing self-awareness and acceptance. The practice is closely related to meditation, and there are a variety of ways to practice mindfulness.

You don’t necessarily have to undergo training to try mindfulness. If you’re interested in pursuing this option for depression, try some of the following techniques:

  • Take time to become intentionally aware of the current moment, by taking stock of your thoughts, surveying your surroundings, or taking a moment to notice your breathing.
  • Focus on becoming more aware of your thoughts and feelings, evaluating how they affect you and, where it might be helpful, eliminating and replacing automatic negative thoughts.
  • Develop mindfulness with others by focusing on remaining present and attentive when others talk.

Those interested in both mindfulness and CBT can blend the two in a form of therapy called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.


  1. Mindfulness treatment as effective as CBT for depression, anxiety. (2014, November 27). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141127112755.htm
  2. Nauman, E. (2014, June 2). Three ways mindfulness reduces depression. Retrieved from http%3A%2F%2Fgreatergood.berkeley.edu%2Farticle%2Fitem%2Fthree_ways_mindfulness_reduces_depression

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  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    December 1st, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Nice article. It matches my 26 year clinical experience as well. I find I’m teaching mindfulness in one form or Tehran to most of my clients.

  • cason

    December 2nd, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    I really like the idea that two can be combined to work together, tag team if you will. I am very much drawn to the idea of learning from others and drawing from their positive energy so I think that this is what intrigues me the most about going through mindfulness training with others in a group setting, so that as you are attentive and mindful of them you can learn how this can then have a positive influence in your own life.

  • Heidi F Yoder, MFT

    December 2nd, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    In my early post graduate years, I studied CBT excitedly because there hadn’t been a class on it at my very analytically focused grad school. I had been practicing mindfulness in the form of Vipassana meditation for over a decade and found it priceless in the Therapeutic setting. I also was shocked to find how similar it was to CBT. And now Neuroscience tells us it may be the fastest way to build a healthy attachment style regardless of where one starts. The benefits are there and plentiful.

  • David W

    December 3rd, 2014 at 11:30 PM

    Cognitive mindfulness therapy
    Using a similar method as in a mixed martial art with the combination of two styles that have a proven track record can only be a positive and relevant method of both therapy and a life long way of living

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