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Mindfulness Meditation vs. Guided Imagery for Acute Depression

06 Aug

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry,Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College in London, UK and Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, conducted a pilot study to compare the impact of mindfulness meditation vs. guided imagery in improving symptoms and self-regulatory capacities for acutely depressed patients.

Participants were randomized to a brief training in mindfulness (n = 19) or guided imagery relaxation (n = 18) in a single session, and then instructed to practice daily for one week.
The investigators collected self-reported measures of the severity of symptoms, difficulties in emotion-regulation, capability for attentional control, ability to open up thinking beyond a narrow focus (de-center), and mindfulness capacity. Data was collected pre- and post-intervention, and at a one-week follow-up.

Symptoms of depression significantly decreased and self-regulatory functioning significantly increased in both groups, with changes maintained during follow-up.

When controlling for change in depressive symptoms, results showed significantly higher improvements in emotion regulation at follow-up in the mindfulness group.

The findings of this small, short-term and limited study suggest that both practices – mindfulness and guided imagery - may help to catalyze reductions in symptoms and enhance self-regulatory functioning in acute depression.

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

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.