In a new study just released, group mindfulness treatment was just as effective as individual cognitive therapy in treating depression. As usual, the actual article is behind a paywall, but if you sign up for online library services through your alma mater, you should be able to get the actual article.
This Swedish study randomly assigned depressed or anxious patients seen in general practice to either group mindfulness training or to individual cognitive behavioral therapy. For outcome measures, the researchers used the PHQ-9, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (self-rated version). Patients referred for CBT were considered the control group. Those in the Mindfulness condition were considered the experimental group.
After 8 weeks, the patients were significantly improved in both groups, and there were no differences between the two groups.
Showing that group mindfulness treatment performs just as well as individual cognitive therapy is remarkable. Obviously, the group treatment is much less expensive. In addition, the mindfulness group leaders were trained in a six day workshop. When we compare that to the years of training to become a skilled cognitive-behavioral therapist, this research is staggering.
Group based treatments are underutilized. Our training as therapists tends to orient us to individual treatment, but if we can add an efficient and effective group treatment to our offerings, we do much more good in the same time. In an ideal world, we would also be compensated more richly because of our efficiency! If only!
For example, when I was teaching Positive Psychology courses at the University of Utah, I focused on actual happiness-raising homework. Instead of reading and testing for comprehension, I asked every student to take the OQ-45 each week and submit it. I asked them to turn in reports of the homework they had done: A Future Diary (if your life takes a turn for the better, where are you a year or two from now), a Gratitude Visit (write a gratitude note and deliver it in person, reading it to the person), a Gratitude Journal (three good things that happened that day, one annoying thing that you reframe) and other happiness interventions.
As is typical at a college level, over a third of the students were definitely in the “needs therapy” range. On the OQ-45, that is >63 (raw score). By the end of the semester, it was very common to find everyone in the class <63! That is a wonderful outcome, and frankly better than if students seek therapy from the university counseling center. Why can’t we offer Positive Psychology group treatment? The answer is that we can and we should.
(My friend, Dr Frank Mosca, uses the CES-D each week in his positive psychology college courses. He reports the same thing! That kind of outcome is awesome, if you will permit me a bit of hysteria.)
(May I mention, if you buy my Enjoy Life book, http://enjoylifebook.com/products-page/books/,from my website, and buy 5 or more at a time, you get the book for half price? It is aimed at clients and students and should be a good text for such classes.)
Back to the meditation study. Those who signed up for my autogenic training and meditation course should be congratulating yourselves for your good judgment about now. Those who didn’t, let me say that meditation skills are not difficult to master and are well worth the investment. Look for good meditation courses in your area. I will likely offer the online meditation course again some time next year, so stay tuned. I would love to have you join us in that class.
In a recent post, http://drlynnjohnson.com/is-mental-illness-a-disease/ ,I pointed out that the Dodo Bird verdict is well supported. As for a general editorial comment, let me just say that once again in this study, the Dodo Bird Verdict seems to be alive and well. All treatment models have won, and everyone must have prizes.
Please do me a favor: Share this post with your colleagues and friends. This is an important study, and it deserves to be known. And, of course, leave your own comments below!
 Jan Sundquist, Åsa Lilja, Karolina Palmér, Ashfaque A. Memon, Xiao Wang, Leena Maria Johansson, & Kristina Sundquist. Mindfulness group therapy in primary care patients with depression, anxiety and stress and adjustment disorders: randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, November 2014 DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.114.150243