Mindfulness Therapy Research: The facts are friendly

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Evidence based therapies are all the rage nowadays and it is important to know whether a particular modality has been researched effectively.
Mindfulness research

Evidence based therapies are all the rage nowadays and it is important to know whether a particular modality has been researched effectively.* There has been extensive research into mindfulness and mindfulness therapy and there is also significant research into somatic therapies which I’ll address in a separate blog.

Mindfulness has been researched as a counselling tool since the 1970s, and there has been a sharp increase in research since 1994. So there is over 40 years of research into its effectiveness, and a great deal of interest for over 20 years. It is also worth noting that mindfulness has been seen as a tool worth having by humans for several thousand years…. it has stood the test of time, long before psychologists ever started using scientific methods to study it!

The most recent studies, and meta-analysis (or an overview) of a broad swathe of studies have shown mindfulness therapy to be very effective for a broad range of conditions, including the following:

  • To reduce and treat depression, anxiety and stress
  • Treating substance use & substance use disorders
  • Treating psychosis
  • Prevent or delay the onset of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Mindfulness meditation has been shown to bring about healthy structural changes in the brain, e.g. parts of the brain related to pain, stress and to present moment awareness

Therefore, mindfulness based therapies can be considered to be evidence based therapies with a solid empirical basis. They have been shown repeatedly to be effective for a wide range of issues, from the relatively simple challenges we face in daily life such as stress, to more difficult things to work with such as psychosis and schizophrenia. It is also significant that mindfulness therapy can make lasting changes to the brain to help us to cope with things like pain and stress. So I think we can give a resounding yes, mindfulness therapy works!

For those who want to read further, the following scientific articles can be looked up on the internet.

  • Khoury B, Lecomte T, Fortin G, et al. (Aug 2013). “Mindfulness-based therapy: a comprehensive meta-analysis”. Clin Psychol Rev. 33
  • Goyal M, Singh S et al. (Mar 2014). “Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis”. JAMA Intern Med 174
  • Black D, “Mindfulness Research Monthly”, Volume 1, Number 5.
  • Chiesa A, (Apr 2014). “Are mindfulness-based interventions effective for substance use disorders? A systematic review of the evidence”. Subst Use Misuse 49 (5)
  • Garland EL, (Jan 2014). “Mindfulness training targets neurocognitive mechanisms of addiction at the attention-appraisal-emotion interface”. Front Psychiatry 4 (173).

* It is also important to recognize that modalities such as CBT, which follows a set format and can easily be put in a manual, fit the research model very well. This means that they have had more research done into them than other modalities. It does not necessarily mean that they are more effective. In fact a quick google search of “CBT research criticism” will reveal that some long term studies question the claims that are made for CBT.

Ajay Hawkes

Ajay Hawkes

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