Among patients suffering from a wide range of psychiatric symptoms like depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders, treatment with mindfulness group therapy has an equally positive effect as individual CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). The new study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Center for Primary Healthcare Research (CPF) in Malmö, which is a collaboration between Lund University in Sweden and Region Skåne.
The need for psychotherapy in primary healthcare is on the increase for patients who are suffering with a variety of mental health problems. However, individual therapy is costly and the supply does not meet the demand. Group therapy with mindfulness can be a viable alternative treatment, which at the same will free up resources in healthcare to be used more efficiently.
"Our new research shows that mindfulness group therapy has the equivalent effect as individual CBT for a wide range of psychiatric symptoms that are common among this patient group," says Professor Jan Sundquist, who led the research group in the study which has been published in European Psychiatry.
The study group included 215 patients with depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. Patients were recruited from 16 different healthcare centers across Scania in southern Sweden for the eight-week randomized controlled trial. Researchers studied a broad range of psychiatric symptoms (measured by several types of questionnaires, e.g. Symptom Checklist-90, SCL-90) and how these symptoms changed during the treatment, either with mindfulness in group therapy or individual CBT.
The results showed that the average score for all 15 different subscales/indexes in the various questionnaires decreased significantly in both scales. The various scales measured, among others, symptoms of depression, general anxiety, stress and somatization, obsessive-compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, aggression, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation and psychoticism. There was no difference in treatment effect between the two groups.
"As mental illnesses are increasing at a very fast rate it is absolutely essential to expand the treatment alternatives for this patient group in primary healthcare. Our view is that the scarce resources should be partly reallocated to mindfulness group therapy so that the limited availability of individual psychotherapy can be utilized in an optimal fashion," concludes Professor Sundquist.