Since the seminal publication of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2002/2013), the Oxford Mindfulness Centre has been involved in several MBCT adaptations for new populations and contexts.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is based on a cognitive science theoretical model of the mind (Teasdale, Segal, & Williams, 2003) and uses mindfulness practice, cognitive techniques and behavioural strategies to develop understanding and effect change. The approach is rooted in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (Beck, 1976) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). It has evolved to be used with a variety of populations, in a range of contexts (Dimidjian & Segal, 2015), but in each case with a clear intention and theoretical formulation (Kuyken, 2016; Teasdale et al., 2003). This is what makes MBCT a mindfulness-based programme (Crane et al., 2017).
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT-D) was originally developed with a particular focus on people with recurrent depression who were at significant risk of depressive relapse (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2013). It had a particular cognitive science formulation of depressive relapse and was carefully adapted to help people at high risk of depression learn skills to stay well in a safe learning environment. It has been shown to be effective in numerous randomised controlled trials (Kuyken et al., 2016), and is becoming more widely available in healthcare contexts.
The OMC has been involved in developing and starting to research several further MBCT manuals. In each case these are based on a particular cognitive science formulation and careful adaptations intended to make MBCT accessible and effective.
But what about the rest of the population who might also benefit from the transformative power of cognitive-behavioural therapies and mindfulness practice? The following figure represents the full spectrum of the population, from those who are at high risk of experiencing mental health problems, to the majority in the middle who are functioning well and enjoying good well-being, through to those who are flourishing. After all, mindfulness is a natural capacity we all have and the possibility of developing mindfulness is available to everyone.
Can a programme that combines mindfulness and cognitive science help more of the population develop resilience, realise their potential and flourish? Can it serve to reduce stress and improve mental health for many and enhance resilience and human potential for all? The book Mindfulness: Finding Peace in Frantic World builds on the ideas and structure of MBCT-D, but offers a broader application of a cognitive science model of the mind and mindfulness practices as a vehicle for change (Williams & Penman, 2011). It offers everyday ways of applying mindfulness to improve well-being. The fact that it has sold more than a million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages suggests it is meeting a need. The Oxford Mindfulness Centre has developed a face-to-face Mindfulness: Finding Peace (M-FP) course that is taught in many settings, including universities and workplaces. It serves as an introduction to mindfulness for the general population and can be taught in 8 relatively short 60 to 90 minute group sessions, with ‘formal’ home practice lengths of between 10 and 20 minutes per day. We are carefully evaluating the acceptability and effectiveness of this course.
Can mindfulness support the development of resilience and help the whole population realise their potential and move towards flourishing?
MBCT for Life [MBCT-L] is intended as a universal taught face-to-face programme, applicable to the general population. It offers mindfulness practices and cognitive-behavioural techniques in ways that are intended to be accessible to all. It guides participants in how to apply this learning in everyday life both to manage difficulties but also to cultivate joy, compassion, equanimity and wisdom. It offers a different way of living that supports people to work with distress and difficulties, but also to savour life, realise their potential and to flourish. Compared to MBCT-D, this is an important shift of emphasis, supporting people to be open to joy, to feel connected to others and the world, to feel they have meaning in their lives and to live in ways consistent with their values. Following the model of MBCT-D with 2-hour classes and about 40 minutes of ‘formal’ home practice per day, MBCT-L is intended as a more in-depth programme [compared with the M-FP course model] to cultivate lasting and sustainable change.
MBCT-L is intended for community settings, where people can come to participate in the programme over 8 weekly sessions as well as a full day of mindfulness practice, which normally takes place between sessions 6 & 7.