Mindfulness Meditation vs. Guided Imagery for Acute Depression

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]