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A Test of Mindfulness v. Guided Imagery for Acute Depression

22 Oct

In this pre-test/ post-test pilot study, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College in London, UK, compared the short term impact of a brief mindfulness training (n=19) to guided imagery relaxation (n=18) with patients suffering from acute depression.

Participants were introduced to either mindfulness or guided imagery/relaxation in a single session, and practiced daily over one week.

Outcome measures were self-reported severity of symptoms: difficulties with emotional regulation, maintaining focus, detaching from negative thinking; and degree of mindful awareness were assessed pre- and post-intervention, and at a one-week follow-up.

The results showed that symptoms of depression significantly decreased and self-regulatory functioning significantly increased in both groups, with changes being maintained during the one week follow-up. There were significantly higher improvements in emotion regulation at follow-up in the mindfulness group.

The researchers conclude that the data suggest that both practices can help to instigate reductions in the symptoms of acute depression and enhance self-regulatory functioning in this population.

However, since this was a small sample and outcomes were only followed for one week, more studies, better designed and for longer follow-up time are needed.

Citation: Costa A1, Barnhofer T2. Turning Towards or Turning Away: A Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Guided Imagery Relaxation in Patients with Acute Depression. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 2015 Jul 20:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.