Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children: Results of a Pilot Study

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children: Results of a Pilot Study

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and helpfulness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Children (MBCT-C) for the treatment of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in a sample of nonreferred children. Twenty-five children, ages 9 to 12, participated in the 12-week intervention. Assessments were conducted at baseline and posttreatment. Open trial analyses found preliminary support for MBCT-C as helpful in reducing internalizing and externalizing symptoms within subjects on the parent report measure. The high attendance rate (Intent-to-Treat sample, 78%; Completer sample, 94%), high retention rate (68%), and positive ratings on program evaluations supported treatment feasibility and acceptability. Overall, this pilot study offers feasibility and acceptability data for MBCT-C as a potential treatment for internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children. Further research is needed to test the efficacy of the intervention with a larger sample of children who meet diagnostic criteria for clinical disorders.

Keywords: mindfulness; meditation; MBCT; children

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in innovative treatment approaches that address the chronic nature of psychological disorders and relapse (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002). Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions promote the use of meditative practices to increase present-moment awareness of conscious thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in an effort to manage negative experiences more effectively. Such alternative approaches expand traditional treatments and offer new strategies for coping with psychological distress.

Mindfulness has been described as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally" (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4). Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, one can develop an intentional awareness of the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis (Goleman & Schwartz, 1976; Kabat-Zinn, 1982; Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). Teasdale, Segal, and Williams (1995) described the essence of this moment-to-moment state: "to 'be' fully in the present moment, without judging or evaluating it, without reflecting backwards on past memories, without looking forward to anticipate the future, as in anxious worry, and without attempting to 'problem-solve' or otherwise avoid any unpleasant aspects of the immediate situation" (p. 33). The practice involves nonjudgmental acceptance such that cog-nitions, emotions, or body sensations that enter the individual's awareness are observed without being evaluated or judged.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a manualized treatment that integrates mindfulness techniques and elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (Segal et al., 2002). MBCT was initially developed as a relapse prevention program to teach formerly depressed individuals skills to protect against future depressive episodes. Through mindfulness training, individuals can learn how to prevent the escalation of negative thoughts into ruminative patterns characteristic of depression, thereby keeping mild states of depression from developing into a major depressive episode.

In a randomized multisite study, Teasdale et al. (2000) investigated the effects of MBCT on rates of depressive relapse in patients whose major depressive disorder had remitted after being treated with medication. Results indicated that for patients with three or more previous depressive episodes, relapse rates were significantly lower for MBCT patients (37% relapsed) than for the treatment-as-usual group (66% relapsed). Ma and Teasdale (2004) conducted a replication study and found similar results. Relapse rates were reduced by half for MBCT patients (36% relapsed) compared to the treatment-as-usual group (78%). Overall, two randomized-controlled trials demonstrated that the MBCT group intervention, initially administered in the recovered state, could significantly decrease risk of future relapse in patients with recurrent major depressive disorder. …

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