Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy-using meditation-provides equivalent protection against depressive relapse as traditional antidepressant medication.
The study compared the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) by studying people who were initially treated with an antidepressant and then, either stopped taking the medication in order to receive MBCT, or continued taking medication for 18 months.
Study participants who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder were all treated with an antidepressant until their symptoms remitted.
They were then randomly assigned to come off their medication and receive MBCT; come off their medication and receive a placebo; or stay on their medication.
The novelty of this design permits comparing the effectiveness of sequencing pharmacological and psychological treatments versus maintaining the same treatment - antidepressants - over time.
Participants in MBCT attended 8 weekly group sessions and practiced mindfulness as part of daily homework assignments.
Clinical assessments were conducted at regular intervals, and over an 18 months period, relapse rates for patients in the MBCT group did not differ from patients receiving antidepressants whereas patients receiving placebo relapsed at a significantly higher rate.
The study has been published in the current issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.