Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) could have significant positive effects for depression sufferers according to a report published Tuesday. Such therapy offers a "new choice for millions of people" with recurrent depression, a Lancet report suggests.
Scientists tested the therapy against anti-depressant pills for people at risk of relapse and found it worked just as well. The finding is significant given the side effects associated with the use of drugs.
The therapy trains people to focus their minds and appreciate that negative thoughts may come and go.
Doctors in Europe are already being encouraged to offer it.
Patients who have had recurrent clinical depression are often prescribed long-term anti-depressant drugs to help prevent further episodes. The right type of therapy could lessen or eliminate the need for these drugs although experts stressed that drug therapy is still essential for many.
In the lancet study, UK scientists enrolled 212 people who were at risk of further depression. The subjects were then put on a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy while carefully reducing their medication.
The therapy entailed patients taking part in group sessions where they learned guided meditation and mindfulness techniques.
The therapy helped people focus on the present, recognise any early warning signs of depression and respond to them in ways that did not trigger further re-occurrences.
Researchers compared their results to 212 people who continued to take a full course of medication over two years. They found a similar proportion of people had relapsed in both groups while many in the MBCT group had been tapered off their medication.
The researchers said these findings suggest MBCT could provide a much-needed alternative for people who cannot or do not want to take long-term drugs.
The report concluded that "may be a new choice for millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions."
Here in America, where drug costs are rising significantly, the therapy based approach may mean reduced care costs vs long term use of expensive prescription medication.