Why MBSR and MBCT? A Scientific Perspective

March 29, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

There has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness recently, and mindfulness principals are now being applied in medicine, law, business, education and leadership among other areas. Much of this interest can be traced back to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts in 1979 and published the first research study of the impact of MBSR among patients with chronic pain in 1982.

One of the things that distinguishes MBSR from other mindfulness interventions is that it is still based on the original curriculum Jon developed, and everyone who is a recognized MBSR teacher has trained through the University of Massachusetts MBSR training program with Jon and his colleagues Saki Santorelli, Melissa Blacker, and Florence Melo-Meyer. A major reason for the acceptance of MBSR is this consistency of training and the use of a standard curriculum, which has led the NIH and other groups to fund many studies of MBSR.  Since Jon’s first paper appeared in 1982, over 400 articles on the effects of MBSR have been published, and there is now a strong research base supporting its benefits.  As an example, a recent article in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research reviewed the impact of MBSR on a number of outcomes, and found that participating in an MBSR course was associated with significant improvements in stress, anxiety, depression, overall well-being, distress, and quality of life.  Our study of the impact of the UVa Mindfulness for Healthcare Providers course was included in this review.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is another mindfulness program taught through the UVa Mindfulness Center that has been shown to be effective in many studies.. MBCT was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, in conjunction with Jon Kabat-Zinn. It combines elements of MBSR with cognitive therapy.  Like MBSR, MBCT teachers go through a training program and teach the same standard curriculum.  MBCT has been shown to decrease the likelihood of depression coming back among those who have suffered serious depression, and there is growing evidence that it is also helpful for those in the midst of a period of depression or who struggle with anxiety.

The University of Virginia Mindfulness Center was established almost 20 years ago by Allie Rudolph and Maria Tussi Kluge, and was one of the first university-based programs outside the University of Massachusetts to offer MBSR. We remain committed to teaching MBSR and MBCT as our principal offerings, using the same programs that have been shown to be so effective.  All of the teachers at the University of Virginia Mindfulness Center have participated in the mindfulness teacher training program through the University of Massachusetts, and we are committed to ongoing teacher education and to remaining at the forefront of teaching and evaluating these programs in order to provide the best possible programs for our participants.

Filed Under: Monthly Musings