I heard Dan Siegel once say, “Why not try a ‘t’ instead of a ‘c’? Meditation instead of medication.”
When I heard this, it got me thinking. . . is there another way? Could we use fewer side-effect laden prescriptions and find a solution that doesn’t involve so many pharmaceuticals?
For instance, in some cases, meditation might be just as effective as antidepressants in preventing relapse in people with depression.
Zindel V. Segal, PhD and his team from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada conducted a study to determine the effect a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy regimen might have on people whose depression had gone into remission.
Published in Archives of General Psychiatry, the study’s purpose was to determine if there was an alternative to antidepressants. (As many as 40% of patients who are trying to maintain their remission do not adhere to their medication regimens, so a substitute might be the key to lower relapse rates.)
Segal and his colleagues split patients into three groups. One group continued to take their prescribed dose of antidepressants as usual, one group was tapered off their medication and had it replaced with a placebo, and one group received mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (which consisted of 8 weekly group meetings) instead of medication.
The goal of the therapy was to teach patients how to monitor and notice their body sensations, feelings, and thoughts associated with depression and change them into opportunities for self reflection. This was accomplished through completing daily homework assignments that included recordings of guided awareness exercises, practicing self-compassion in times of difficulty, and creating an ‘action plan’ with strategies for responding to initial warning signs of relapse.
After 18 months, levels of relapse were examined. The mindfulness group had a 38% rate of relapse, the antidepressant group had a 46% rate, and the placebo group had a 60% rate.
In this experiment, mindfulness was just as effective as antidepressants in preventing the re-occurrence of depression.
This really hammers home the point that there may be an alternative to all the medications commonly prescribed. Studies like these are opening the door for so many patients who are looking for an alternative means for managing their illness.
If you want to learn more about how treatments like this can work and how to apply them to your practice, or if you want to learn more for yourself or a loved one, take a look at our courses on mindfulness.
Included within the series is a wide range of practical techniques for addressing many of the common conditions we face as practitioners and as everyday people.
How have you used mindfulness or self-compassion to help yourself or your patients?
Please Note: if anyone reading this blog post is currently taking antidepressant medication, DO NOT go off of them without the supervision of your prescribing practitioner.