DIAGNOSIS: Depression
TREATMENT: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

2015 EST Status: Treatment pending re-evaluation Very strong: High-quality evidence that treatment improves symptoms and functional outcomes at post-treatment and follow-up; little risk of harm; requires reasonable amount of resources; effective in non-research settings

Strong: Moderate- to high-quality evidence that treatment improves symptoms OR functional outcomes; not a high risk of harm; reasonable use of resources

Weak: Low or very low-quality evidence that treatment produces clinically meaningful effects on symptoms or functional outcomes; Gains from the treatment may not warrant resources involved

Insufficient Evidence: No meta-analytic study could be identified

Insufficient Evidence: Existing meta-analyses are not of sufficient quality

Treatment pending re-evaluation

1998 EST Status: Strong Research Support Strong: Support from two well-designed studies conducted by independent investigators.

Modest: Support from one well-designed study or several adequately designed studies.

Controversial: Conflicting results, or claims regarding mechanisms are unsupported.

Strength of Research Support

Empirical Review Status
2015 Criteria
(Tolin et al. Recommendation)
Very Strong
Insufficient Evidence
Treatment pending re-evaluation
1998 Criteria
(Chambless et al. EST)

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Brief Summary

  • Basic premise: Depression is associated with a network of negative modes of thinking and feeling. These modes can be reactivated during periods of remission leading to relapse.
  • Essence of therapy: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines core concepts of cognitive therapy with training in mindfulness meditation as a means of decreasing cognitive reactivity. MBCT aims to cultivate mindfulness, encouraging patients to both become acquainted with depressive modes of thinking and feeling while at once developing a new (and less reactive) relationship with these experiences.  This process involves meeting distressing internal experiences (i.e., thoughts, feelings) with patience, kindness, curiosity, and empathy.  MBCT was originally designed to prevent relapse for patients in remission from depression, with an emphasis on detecting early signs of relapse through enhanced decentering.  More recent work has investigated MBCT for reducing residual depressive symptoms and comorbid anxiety.  A small body of evidence suggests MBCT may be effective for reducing current depressive symptoms.
  • Length: 8 weekly 2-hour sessions, typically delivered in a group format (up to 16 patients). Patients are asked to engage in 45 minutes of home meditation practice.  A full-day “retreat” between session 6 and 7 and post-intervention “booster” sessions may also be included.

Treatment Resources

Editors:Simon B. Goldberg, PhD; Zindel V. Segal, PhD

Note: The resources provided below are intended to supplement not replace foundational training in mental health treatment and evidence-based practice

Treatment Manuals / Outlines

Treatment Manuals
Books Available for Purchase Through External Sites


Training Materials and Workshops

Measures, Handouts and Worksheets

Self-help Books

Important Note: The books listed above are based on empirically-supported in-person treatments. They have not necessarily been evaluated empirically either by themselves or in conjunction with in-person treatment. We list them as a resource for clinicians who assign them as an adjunct to conducting in-person treatment.

Smartphone Apps

Video Demonstrations

Videos Available for Purchase Through External Sites

Video Descriptions

Clinical Trials

Meta-analyses and Systematic Reviews

Other Treatment Resources

  • MBCT.com, contains resources for learning about MBCT, receiving MBCT, and training in MBCT
  • ACCESS MBCT is an international listing of mental health professionals involved in the delivery of MBCT
  • Bangor Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, contains free guided mindfulness meditation practices, information about training and research on mindfulness-based interventions (including MBCT)