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CMAP Health

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Mindfulness and Mental Health

Mindfulness and Mental Health

‘Mindfulness’ has grown immensely in popularity in recent years. Having been practiced in the world and, in some form, in all major religions for thousands of years, it was firmly placed on the secular map by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1980s. Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed what is now known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, in the first place to support people suffering from ill health, or even terminal illness.
In the 1990s, mindfulness came to be considered as a component of Mental Health treatment as well. Three proficient Academic and Clinical Psychologists, based on their own independent research and with a shared interest in preventing relapse in recurrent depression, collaborated with Dr. Kabat-Zinn and developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, MBCT. Dr. John Teasdale, Dr. Mark Williams, and Dr. Zindel Segal wrote their first manual in the late 1990s and published the first trial of MBCT in 2000. It was shown to make a significant difference for people with recurrent depression, a condition notoriously hard to treat, with more recent studies indicating growing evidence of effectiveness in other conditions, including several anxiety disorders.

However, it also showed that mindfulness practice can be unhelpful whilst someone struggles with acute depression and, in some cases, may even trigger a relapse. Caution was given that MBCT for recurrent depression should be offered a.) only while someone is in remission and b.) after someone has had at least three episodes. 

Mindfulness as a treatment for mental illness, in general, should further only be taught in its evidence-based format.

At the Centre for Mental and Psychological health, we offer MBCT in its original form. As mentioned, mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy has been designed to help people with recurrent depression and chronic unhappiness. It aims to guide people in the cultivation of mindfulness, which may support the development of a greater understanding and awareness of one’s experience. This awareness, combined with cognitive therapy skills, has been shown to assist people in the detection of early warning signs, often averting the downward spiral into a depressive episode. 

The program consists of 8 weekly 2-hour sessions of instruction and one full day of practice after the sixth session. In the course meetings, we learn and practice skills of mindfulness and cognitive therapy. Between sessions, we practice daily at home.  The course includes handouts, guided meditations, and other course materials. 

Outline of sessions:

  • Awareness and automatic pilot: from “doing” to “being”
  • Mindfulness of eating, body sensations, and everyday experience
  • Living in our heads. Practice letting go of thinking and connect with direct awareness of the body
  • Gathering the scattered mind. Using the breath and body to reconnect with mindful presence
  • Recognizing aversion
  • Allowing/letting be
  • Thoughts are not facts
  • “How can I best take care of myself?”
  • Maintaining and extending new learning

We look forward to welcoming you to our next MBCT course, here, at CMAP Health. 

About the Author: 

Kirstine Postma CPsych

Kirstine Postma is a clinical psychologist practicing in Ottawa. She is trained in CBT, DBT, EMDR,

Interpersonal Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. She also works as a trainer and supervisor in CBT.

Kirstine specialises in the treatment of PTSD, using multiple evidence-based models.

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