Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

A psychotherapy combining mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy techniques.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that integrates mindfulness meditation practices with cognitive therapy principles. It aims to help individuals develop awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in the present moment, without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness skills, MBCT enables people to recognize and disengage from negative thought patterns and prevent relapse into mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

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Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy was developed in the 1990s by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale. They adapted Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, combining it with cognitive therapy techniques to specifically target depression relapse prevention. MBCT builds upon the foundational work of MBSR and cognitive therapy, creating a unique approach that emphasizes the role of mindfulness in recognizing and disengaging from negative thought patterns associated with depressive episodes.


  1. Relapse Prevention MBCT has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of relapse in individuals with a history of recurrent depression.
  2. Emotion Regulation Practicing MBCT helps individuals develop better emotional regulation skills, allowing them to respond to challenges with greater resilience.
  3. Increased Self-Awareness MBCT cultivates a deeper understanding of one's thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, fostering greater self-awareness and insight.
  4. Reduced Rumination By learning to observe thoughts without judgment, MBCT helps reduce rumination and the negative impact of repetitive thought patterns.
  5. Enhanced Well-being Regular practice of MBCT can lead to improved overall well-being, including reduced stress, increased happiness, and better quality of life.
  6. Applicable to Various Conditions While initially developed for depression, MBCT has been adapted to address other mental health concerns such as anxiety, stress, and chronic pain.

How It Works

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines mindfulness techniques with cognitive therapy to help individuals manage stress, anxiety, and depression. MBCT teaches participants to become aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing them to respond more effectively to negative patterns. Through guided meditations, body awareness exercises, and cognitive restructuring techniques, participants learn to recognize and disengage from unhelpful thought patterns. MBCT aims to cultivate a more balanced and compassionate relationship with one's internal experiences, ultimately reducing the risk of relapse in depression and promoting overall well-being.


While MBCT can be highly beneficial for many individuals, it is essential to consider some factors before starting the therapy. MBCT requires a significant time commitment, as it typically involves attending weekly group sessions and engaging in daily mindfulness practices. Individuals with severe mental health conditions or those experiencing acute symptoms may require additional support or more intensive treatment. It is crucial to work with a qualified MBCT practitioner who can provide guidance and ensure the therapy is suitable for one's specific needs. Some people may find the mindfulness practices challenging or uncomfortable initially, but with practice and patience, most participants find the techniques become more natural and effective over time.

How Much It Costs

The cost of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy can vary depending on several factors, such as the provider, location, and whether it is covered by insurance. On average, group MBCT sessions can range from $50 to $200 per session, with a typical 8-week program costing between $400 and $1,600. Individual MBCT sessions may cost more, ranging from $100 to $250 per session. Some insurance plans may cover a portion of the costs, so it is advisable to check with your insurance provider. Additionally, some community mental health centers or non-profit organizations may offer MBCT at reduced rates or on a sliding scale based on income.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual or online MBCT options offer several advantages compared to in-person sessions. Online MBCT allows participants to access the therapy from the comfort of their own home, eliminating the need for travel and making it more convenient for those with busy schedules. It also provides a wider range of therapist options, as individuals can choose from practitioners across different locations. However, in-person MBCT sessions may be preferable for those who value face-to-face interactions and the support of a physical group setting. In-person sessions can also provide a more immersive experience and may be particularly helpful for those who struggle with technology or have limited access to reliable internet. Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person MBCT depends on individual preferences and circumstances.


To practice Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, practitioners typically need to complete a specialized training program. The most widely recognized certification is the MBCT Teacher Training Pathway, which is offered by the University of California, San Diego's Center for Mindfulness. This pathway consists of several stages, including foundational training, an MBCT teacher training intensive, and a certification program. Practitioners must have a graduate degree in a mental health field, such as psychology, social work, or counseling, and have prior experience with mindfulness practices. Additionally, they should have experience working with individuals with depression and other mental health conditions. Some organizations, such as the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute, also offer MBCT teacher training programs. It is essential to choose a reputable training program to ensure practitioners have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively deliver MBCT.

Complementary Practices

Some complementary practices that work well with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy include yoga, tai chi, qigong, journaling, art therapy, and nature walks. These practices can help to reduce stress, improve emotional regulation, and promote a greater sense of well-being. Incorporating them alongside MBCT can enhance the overall therapeutic benefits and provide additional tools for managing mental health challenges.

Practitioner Types

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is typically provided by licensed mental health professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and mental health counselors. These practitioners should have specialized training in MBCT and a deep understanding of mindfulness practices. Some medical doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists may also offer MBCT if they have received the appropriate training and certification.

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  • Q: What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?

    • A: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a form of psychotherapy that combines mindfulness techniques with cognitive therapy. It aims to help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and to relate to them in a more balanced and non-judgmental way. MBCT is particularly effective for preventing relapse in people with a history of depression.
  • Q: How does MBCT differ from traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

    • A: While both MBCT and traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aim to help individuals manage their thoughts and emotions, MBCT places a greater emphasis on mindfulness practices. MBCT teaches individuals to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment, whereas CBT focuses more on challenging and changing negative thought patterns.
  • Q: Is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy effective?

    • A: Yes, numerous studies have shown that MBCT is an effective treatment for a range of mental health conditions, particularly for preventing relapse in people with a history of depression. Research also suggests that MBCT can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and chronic pain.
  • Q: How long does a typical MBCT program last?

    • A: A standard Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program usually consists of 8 weekly group sessions, each lasting around 2 hours. Participants are also encouraged to practice mindfulness techniques at home between sessions. Some programs may include a full-day silent retreat near the end of the 8-week course.
  • Q: Can I practice MBCT on my own, or do I need a therapist?

    • A: While it is possible to learn and practice mindfulness techniques on your own, working with a trained MBCT therapist can provide additional guidance, support, and accountability. A therapist can help you to develop a regular mindfulness practice, work through any challenges that arise, and tailor the program to your specific needs and goals.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a powerful therapeutic approach that combines the benefits of mindfulness with cognitive therapy techniques. By learning to observe thoughts and feelings without judgment, individuals can develop a greater sense of self-awareness, emotional regulation, and resilience. MBCT has been shown to be particularly effective for preventing relapse in people with a history of depression, but it can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and chronic pain. While MBCT can be practiced independently, working with a trained therapist can provide additional support and guidance. Incorporating complementary practices such as yoga, tai chi, or journaling can further enhance the therapeutic benefits of MBCT and promote overall well-being.