A Test of Mindfulness v. Guided Imagery for Acute Depression

In this pre-test/ post-test pilot study, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College in London, UK, compared the short term impact of a brief mindfulness training (n=19) to guided imagery relaxation (n=18) with patients suffering from acute depression.

Participants were introduced to either mindfulness or guided imagery/relaxation in a single session, and practiced daily over one week.

Outcome measures were self-reported severity of symptoms: difficulties with emotional regulation, maintaining focus, detaching from negative thinking; and degree of mindful awareness were assessed pre- and post-intervention, and at a one-week follow-up.

The results showed that symptoms of depression significantly decreased and self-regulatory functioning significantly increased in both groups, with changes being maintained during the one week follow-up. There were significantly higher improvements in emotion regulation at follow-up in the mindfulness group.

The researchers conclude that the data suggest that both practices can help to instigate reductions in the symptoms of acute depression and enhance self-regulatory functioning in this population.

However, since this was a small sample and outcomes were only followed for one week, more studies, better designed and for longer follow-up time are needed.

Citation: Costa A1, Barnhofer T2. Turning Towards or Turning Away: A Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Guided Imagery Relaxation in Patients with Acute Depression. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 2015 Jul 20:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

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