PGDip Psychological Therapies Practice (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapies and Approaches)

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the willingness and capacity to be equally present with all events and experiences with discernment, curiosity and kindness

Christina Feldman

This sounds straightforward, but this way of relating to experience is in fact radically different from the way that most people normally live. John Teasdale offers a detailed definition: ‘The essence of mindfulness is to be fully aware of our experience in each moment, equally open to whatever it has to offer and free of the domination of habitual, automatic, cognitive routines that are often goal-oriented and, in one form or another, related to wanting things to be other than they are.’ So often we are on automatic pilot, reacting to life. Mindfulness involves intentionally stepping out of automatic pilot to be present, aware and responsive. The attention has a quality of curiosity, patience, spaciousness and care. This mode of awareness takes considerable practice for both teachers and participants of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based approaches (MBA).

Teaching mindfulness to help people transform suffering has a lineage extending over 2500 years. In the 1970s Jon Kabat-Zinn incorporated some of these healing approaches into a programme called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).  MBSR is as an 8-week, class-based program in which people learn mindfulness practices, recognise patterns of thinking and feeling that cause suffering, bring awareness and compassion to these moments and learn to step out of patterns of reactivity.

MBCT was developed as a technique to help people recover from recurrent depression; combining mindfulness approaches with the empirically supported tenets of cognitive therapy. During an eight-week course, participants learn skills that help them recognise the signs of an impending relapse and with this awareness they gain the choice to respond mindfully. MBCT is now recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as a relapse prevention approach for recurrent depression.

Over the last decade this work has blossomed with mindfulness-based approaches being used with a range of presenting issues (e.g., recurrent depression, chronic fatigue, pain management, chronic health conditions, stress), in a range of populations (e.g., children, parents, adolescents ...) and in a range of settings (e.g., health services, schools, forensic settings). Clinical trials provide an increasingly compelling case that mindfulness can help people with a history of depression stay well and help people with chronic physical health problems and stress and enhance well-being.