Psych Central

We have written extensively in this blog and in our books about the strong scientific evidence that supports cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as one of the most effective treatments for both anxiety and depression. CBT is so well studied and validated that frankly, we can’t imagine why it shouldn’t be the foundation of most treatment plans.

At the same time, we’ve regularly recommended mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga, and mindful acceptance to our clients (and we practice what we preach). Mindfulness oversimplified involves focusing on and accepting the present moment. Throughout the years we’ve attended numerous continuing education classes to learn more about mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is a part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBST). Wow, that’s a bunch of initials.

There have been many studies that show the effectiveness of various cognitive behavioral therapies plus mindfulness in reducing symptoms involved with chronic pain patients, in decreasing relapse for people with depression, managing stress, and helping those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The problem with those studies is that since cognitive behavioral techniques are used in addition to mindfulness, it’s hard to tell what is really helping—the original CBT or the mindfulness. However, a recent article, “The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review,” looks specifically at the effects of mindfulness on treating anxiety and depression in people who have high levels of anxiety and depression (Hofman, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh 2010).

The authors of this study are cautiously optimistic. They conclude that mindfulness is indeed “a promising intervention.” Good. We figured that the experiences of practitioners over the last 5,000 years or so would also support this conclusion. Yet, the question still lingers. What part of the treatment is actually helping people—mindfulness and CBT both involve changing the way we think and changing what we do.

Unfortunately, the authors of this meta-analytic study could not find a body of studies comparing the effectiveness of CBT versus mindfulness strategies alone. Therefore, all we know at this time is that mindfulness techniques appear to work effectively in ameliorating symptoms of anxiety or depression. What we don’t know is whether or not mindfulness is more or less effective than CBT or if the combination results in an enhanced outcome.

As usual, science proceeds slowly. Hopefully we’ll have some more answers sooner than another 5,000 years. In the meantime, breathe…



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 10 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


Prof.Lakshman (April 16, 2010)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (April 16, 2010)

Does Mindfulness Based Therapy Decrease Depression and Anxiety … Treatment Me (April 16, 2010)

Day 5: ‘Morning’ meditation | 30 days of meditation (February 25, 2011)

    Last reviewed: 16 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Smith, L. (2010). Does Mindfulness Based Therapy Decrease Depression and Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from


Anxiety & OCD Exposed

Subscribe to this Blog:



Purchase Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies now! Purchase Child Psychology and Development for Dummies now!

Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Mack Ethridge: Forgive me if I am posting this comment in the wrong place, as I am new to blogging and was not sure...
  • Joanne Michael: I found it very interesting that BDD and OCD were actually similar. I suppose thinking back I should...
  • susieq: Hi, my big brother is suffering from OCD thoughts. It is severe now and the medication seems to have made it...
  • Karan Nixon: I have the workbook for DBT and the daily journal. I’d like a recommendation for a lecture type...
  • Karan Nixon: I read some of these articles and some parts make sense to me and most do not make sense. I guess I am...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!