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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy improves depression and anxiety, decreases relapse in patients with mental disorders

Galante J, Iribarren S, Pearce P. Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials J Res Nurs. 2012; 18(2): 133–155

Review question

What is the effectiveness and safety of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the treatment of mental disorders?


Mental disorders represent an increasing global burden of disease. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is now being used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. This therapy includes a combination of contemplative practices and cognitive therapy techniques that are delivered by MBCT-trained therapists.

How the review was done

This is a summary based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials, with a total of 859 adult participants diagnosed with mental disorders. The MBCT was administered over 8 weeks in addition to usual treatment, and most of the studies had a follow-up of one year. Results were compared to the control group, which received usual treatment only.

What the researchers found

At the one-year follow-up, of those with 3 or more previous episodes of depression, 38% of the intervention group relapsed, compared to 62% in the control group. This difference is statistically significant. For depression, measured immediately after the intervention or at one year, and measured by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and the Beck Depression Inventory second edition (BDI-II), there was a statistically significant reduction in depression mean scores, in favour of the intervention group. This group also demonstrated small improvements in anxiety compared with the control group.


MBCT, offered in combination with usual treatment, significantly decreased relapses in patients with recurring depression and improved depression and anxiety up to a year later.


Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on adults with mental disorders


Effect (Total (95% CI))

Relapse rate at 1 year post-intervention

0.61  [0.48, 0.79]

Depression measured with HAM-D at 1 year post-intervention

-2.46  [-4.36, -0.56]

Depression measured with BDI-II 1 year post-intervention

-10.39 [-15.66, -5.12]

Depression measured with HAM-D at post-intervention

-4.31 [-5.79, -2.83]

Depression measured with BDI-II at post-intervention

-7.33 [-12.12, -2.54]

Anxiety at post-intervention

-0.42 [-0.74, -0.09]




Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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