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The efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in recurrent depressed patients with and without a current depressive episode: a randomized controlled trial

  • J. R. van Aalderen (a1), A. R. T. Donders (a1), F. Giommi (a1), P. Spinhoven (a1), H. P. Barendregt (a1) and A. E. M. Speckens (a1)...

The aim of this study is to examine the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) for recurrent depressive patients with and without a current depressive episode.


A randomized, controlled trial comparing MBCT+TAU (n=102) with TAU alone (n=103). The study population consisted of patients with three or more previous depressive episodes. Primary outcome measure was post-treatment depressive symptoms according to the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Secondary outcome measures included the Beck Depression Inventory, rumination, worry and mindfulness skills. Group comparisons were carried out with linear mixed modelling, controlling for intra-group correlations. Additional mediation analyses were performed. Comparisons were made between patients with and without a current depressive episode.


Patients in the MBCT+TAU group reported less depressive symptoms, worry and rumination and increased levels of mindfulness skills compared with patients receiving TAU alone. MBCT resulted in a comparable reduction of depressive symptoms for patients with and without a current depressive episode. Additional analyses suggest that the reduction of depressive symptoms was mediated by decreased levels of rumination and worry.


The study findings suggest that MBCT is as effective for patients with recurrent depression who are currently depressed as for patients who are in remission. Directions towards a better understanding of the mechanisms of action of MBCT are given, although future research is needed to support these hypotheses.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: J. R. van Aalderen, Department of Psychiatry, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Reinier Postlaan 10, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands. (Email:
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