By: Brandon A. Gaudiano, Ph.D. Psychologist at Butler Hospital

Mindfulness and meditation practices have been used for centuries to improve our emotional and physical health.  But only recently has mindfulness been integrated into different forms of psychotherapy or counseling to treat major psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbances.  Today, some of the most popular and well-researched therapies incorporate mindfulness strategies to teach people how to better cope with stress and manage difficult emotions.  Below is a list of a few these effective psychotherapies available today that capitalize on mindfulness.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is based on the idea that the more we try to avoid emotional pain and suffering, the narrower and more unlivable our lives become. Instead, ACT helps people to identify what they truly value in life, and to work toward those values step-by-step while making room for uncomfortable feelings.  ACT uses mindfulness as a way to help people cope better with the life challenges they may encounter so that they can stay on track.  Numerous studies have been conducted showing that ACT is an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction, and even psychosis.  Research on ACT even shows that it can help people with schizophrenia cope better with psychosis and stay out of the hospital longer.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a blending of cognitive behavior therapy with mindfulness meditation. This therapy has been successfully used to prevent future relapses in those who have been depressed in the past.  One large study found that MBCT was able to prevent future episodes of depression in patients, allowing them to successfully discontinue their antidepressant medication under medical supervision.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s and has been used for a difficult-to-treat condition called borderline personality disorder, as well as for chronically suicidal individuals. DBT teaches patients behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and distress tolerance, and emphasizes mindful awareness and acceptance skills.  Clinical trials have shown that DBT significantly reduces suicidal behaviors, re-hospitalizations, and treatment drop out compared with traditional treatments.

These are just some of the therapies that incorporate mindfulness and meditation today.  Mindfulness is increasingly a part of modern, evidence-based psychotherapies and research is beginning to document its relevance for treating a wide variety of conditions.

Brandon A. Gaudiano, Ph.D.

Brandon A. Gaudiano, Ph.D. is a psychologist at Butler Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is the editor of a new book titled Mindfulness, which is a part of Routledge’s “Major Themes in Mental Health” Series. Mindfulness is a four-volume set that contains some of the seminal works on this topic, covering research and theory on the history, assessment, and applications of mindfulness.  A series of Talks Your Health posts highlight each of the four topics covered. Volume I focuses on the historical and philosophical roots of mindfulness. Volume II focuses on cognitive neuroscience and assessment methods. Volume III focuses on clinical interventions incorporating mindfulness.  Volume IV focuses on nonclinical applications of mindfulness.