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Matthew Evans - Valleys Steps

A Q&A with Wellbeing
Course Practitioner – Clare McRobbie

What is the Mindfulness – Based Cognitive Therapy for Life course?

Hi, 

Many people ask lots of questions about the Mindfulness courses on offer at Valleys Steps, especially the MBCT-L course. I decided it would be a great idea to answer them. 

What does MBCT-L stand for? 

MBCT-L stands for Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Life, it’s an adaptation of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy programme developed by clinical psychotherapists in 2002. They aimed to build upon Cognitive Therapy, developed in the 1960’s by Aaron T. Beck. This was integrated with a program called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979, for people experiencing long term chronic pain. 

What is Cognitive Therapy? 

Cognitive Therapy or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a structured, time limited approach for a variety of conditions; Anxiety, Low-Mood & Depression, Eating Disorders & Phobias to name a few. It has become one of the most widely used talking therapies in the UK; in 2013 -14 CBT was the most commonly used talking therapy in the IAPT service* accounting for 38% of appointments. Clients are referred by their GP for one to one sessions with a trained CBT therapist. CBT is based on the idea that the way we think about situations can affect the way we feel and behave. For example, if you interpret a situation negatively then you might experience negative emotions as a result, and those bad feelings might then lead you to behave in a certain way.

 

What is the difference between ‘Mindfulness for Everyday’ course and ‘Mindfulness -Based Cognitive Therapy for Life’? 

Mindfulness for Everyday is a free open access course delivered over a 6 – week period for one hour per week online and 1.5 hours in community settings. It is an introductory course, aimed at the general public, delivered in a lecture style to improve wellbeing and reduce low mood and stress levels. 

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Life (MBCT-L) The course is designed to be taught in community group settings and due to the present situation the course is now being offered online. The MBCT-L course is intended for people who want to reduce stress, anxiety and/or depression and improve mental wellbeing. It is taught in a suitable and safe environment, in a group of no more than 16 people for 8 weekly 2 hour sessions . Participants will practice mindfulness meditations as well as cognitive -behavioural approaches in ways that are accessible to all. Each week there is a different theme for the session and meditations and cognitive therapy exercises. There is time to reflect on meditations and exercises in small breakaway groups and then come back together to share with the wider group. Participants do not have to speak if they do not want to and no one is asked to share personal problems/issues. 

The ultimate aim of the MCBT- L course is to help participants to make a radical shift in their relationship to the thoughts, feelings and body sensations that contribute to anxiety and/or depressive relapse. Participants are encouraged to develop a home practice of approximately 20- 30 mins a day. All participants are given a handout each week with the main learning points and Home practice as well as access to a link to download the weekly meditations. 

What evidence is there that MBCT-L reduces stress, anxiety and depression? 

Two randomized clinical trials (The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2000 and 2008) found that MBCT reduces rates of depression relapse by 50% among patients who suffer from recurrent depression. The Lancet (2015) reported that in recent findings that a combination of tapering off medication with MBCT is as effective as ongoing maintenance dose of anti -depressants. MBCT is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression. To summarise research shows that MBCT-L has many benefits: 

  • Reduction in stress, anxiety and depression 
  • Less worrying and obsessing over situations 
  • More appreciation of what we enjoy and find pleasant in life 
  • Improved wellbeing even during difficult times

 

What will I learn in the MBCT-L course ?

 

Mindfulness is a mind-body based, psychoeducational approach that can help people change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. Mindfulness training helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them. Participants will learn: 

  • to understand the workings of the mind and recognise patterns/mental habits to stand back from difficult thoughts and feelings 
  • begin to recognise early warning signs and take action 
  • be kinder and more compassionate to yourself 

How long is the course? 

The course is taught over 8 weeks for 2 hours each week. There is a half day session on a Saturday or Sunday around week 6 for the group to come together for an extended period of practice. The teacher will guide the familiar meditations taught on the course.This helps participants to support and strengthen practice. At the end of the day there’s time for reflection on experiences and asking questions. This day is optional for participants to attend. 

What qualifications do you need to teach the MBCT-L course? 

The first thing you need to do is to complete an 8-week Mindfulness-based course (MBCT, MBCT-L, or MBSR). Then I recommend you explore the Universities that offer teacher training in Mindfulness-based courses in England and Wales, these are Bangor, Exeter, and Oxford. Once you have completed a teacher training course you then need to register as a fully trained Mindfulness-based teacher with the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA) and adhere to the UK Good practice guidelines for Mindfulness-based teachers. 

Why did you become a Mindfulness Teacher? 

I love Mindfulness as it has helped me so much in my life. I used to suffer from very high levels of stress, anxiety and depression in my teaching role and I did not want to take medication. I decided to go on an 8 -week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course in 2012 and it changed my life. I have always been careful about eating healthy food and exercising and I had practised Transcendental meditation way back when pregnant with my son in 1992 but Mindfulness really helped me to improve my mental wellbeing and stop worrying so much and to step back from the very fast pace of life that I was living. I initially trained to teach Mindfulness with the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) to teach young people in the school I taught in and then I trained to teach staff in schools . I was a Senior Leader in a Secondary School in Cardiff for many years. I then left teaching and studied part -time at the University of Exeter where I gained an MSc Psychological Therapies Practice and Research (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapies and Approaches). To date, I have taught around 35 8-week Mindfulness-based courses.

 

What have graduates from the MBCT-L course said about the course? 

  •  “I was very anxious and worried and found it hard to relax but I have overcome that now’ · ‘I feel a lot calmer and less anxious compared to before the course started’ 
  •  ‘I am relaxing and sleeping a lot better, being able to put stresses and problems to one side. The Body Scan has helped me the most and I feel I am now being kinder to myself. Also noticing surroundings, noises on a walk and enjoying that more” 
  •  ‘It has made me aware of the need to be more compassionate to myself, as I am with others. It has made me aware of how I react to certain things and the need to pause , breath and respond in a more measured way.” 
  •  ‘I enjoyed the group setting and understanding that there are others who suffer with anxiety and poor mental health too. The handouts were useful and pleased that I have the meditation recordings for everyday use moving forward.”

 

Clare McRobbie 

References 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)62222-4/fulltext#seccestitle10 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848393/ 

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/1-Guidance#care-of-all-people-with-depression Statistics about mental health treatment and services 

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/talk-therapy-stats.html#talktherapystatistics

By Clare McRobbie

Course Wellbeing Practitioner