LUND, Sweden — Opening up to a therapist about stressors and struggles in life can be mentally healing for many people, but it’s not for everyone. For those seeking other options to relieve anxiety or depression symptoms, a new study finds that mindfulness meditation can be just as beneficial to patients as psychotherapy.
Researchers at Lund University examined 215 patients from various healthcare clinics in southern Sweden who suffer from various depressive, anxiety, or stress-related disorders. Participants in the eight-week randomized controlled trial included men and women ages 20 to 64.
The research team monitored how patients’ symptoms changed while being treated either with individual cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or during mindfulness group therapy.
Using patient questionnaires evaluated with an assessment of symptoms commonly used by mental health professionals, the researchers determined that symptoms decreased significantly and evenly for all the participants, whether in the CBT group or the mindfulness group.
“Our new research shows that mindfulness group therapy has the equivalent effect as individual CBT for a wide range of psychiatric symptoms that are common among this patient group,” says lead study author Professor Jan Sundquist, in a university press release.
Sundquist believes the study is important because many people simply can’t afford CBT and may not think to pursue other means of treatment. Mindfulness group therapy can be a much cheaper option for people seeking relief from various mental health disorders, the study confirmed.
“As mental illnesses are increasing at a very fast rate it is absolutely essential to expand the treatment alternatives for this patient group in primary healthcare,” says Sundquist. “Our view is that the scarce resources should be partly reallocated to mindfulness group therapy so that the limited availability of individual psychotherapy can be utilised in an optimal fashion.”
The study was published in the journal European Psychiatry.