18 June 2020

Mindfulness training can be an effective tool to fight depression. Home practice is considered to be a key element in this form of treatment. However, depressive symptoms might act as a barrier to perform home practice, according to a recent study by Radboudumc researchers Marleen ter Avest and Anne Speckens. The results have been published in Cognitive Therapy and Research.

While Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is being studied more and more, long-term research into the link between home practice and depression is still scarce. In addition, reverse associations between symptoms and home practice have not been investigated yet. Ter Avest and colleagues explored the interplay between home practice and depressive symptoms in MBCT over a 15 months follow-up period in recurrently depressed patients.

Tackling the interplay between mindfulness and depression

The general hypothesis was simple: the more homework a patient performs, the more depressive symptoms are reduced. In addition, the more depressive symptoms a patient experiences, the less home practice would subsequently be performed. The participants’ level of depressive symptoms were assessed every 3 months and home practice was measured throughout the full 15 months.

The results suggest that the interplay between home practice and outcome is not that straightforward as expected. Practicing more frequently at home did not lead to less depressive symptoms. However, the study revealed that the level of depression has an effect on home practice: patients seem to practice less often in the subsequent three months when a higher level of depressive symptoms is reported.

These results may help to improve the implementation of MBCT. However, the study should be replicated before recommendations for clinical practice can be formulated.

Publication

Ter Avest, M. J., Greven, C. U., Huijbers, M. J., Wilderjans, T. F., Speckens, A. E. M., & Spinhoven, P. (2020). Prospective Associations Between Home Practice and Depressive Symptoms in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Recurrent Depression: A 15 Months Follow-Up Study. Cognitive Therapy and Research.

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