Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy could provide an alternative non-drug treatment for people who do not wish to continue long-term antidepressant treatment, suggests new UK research.
The therapy consists of structured training for the mind and body, which aims to change the way people think and feel about their experiences.
Results from the first ever large study to compare the approach with maintenance antidepressant medication for reducing the risk of relapse in depression have been published in The Lancet.
“These results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions”
The study suggested the therapy may offer similar protection as antidepressants against depressive relapse or recurrence for people who have experienced multiple episodes of depression.
Mindfulness therapy was developed to help patients who had experienced repeated bouts of depression by teaching them the skills to recognise and to respond constructively to the thoughts and feelings associated with relapse, thereby preventing a downward spiral into depression.
In the trial, which was conducted from Exeter University, 424 adults with recurrent major depression were recruited from 95 primary care general practices.
Participants were randomly assigned to come off their antidepressant medication slowly and receive mindfulness therapy, or to stay on their medication.
Participants in the therapy group attended eight group sessions and were given daily home practice, and the option of attending four follow-up sessions.
All trial participants were assessed at regular intervals over two years for a major depressive episode using a psychiatric diagnostic interview tool—the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.
Relapse rates in both groups were similar – 44% in the therapy group and 47% in the antidepressant group.
Lead author Willem Kuyken, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University, said: “We believe these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions.”