Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was first developed in 2002 by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale as an innovative approach to prevent relapse in patients with histories of major depression. Early empirical evidence for the efficacy of MBCT in this population has supported further application of MBCT in a number of other settings and with a variety of populations. Framed as a primarily clinical intervention, MBCT uses the platform of mindfulness (moment-to-moment, non-judgmental attention) to support participants in developing a different relationship with thoughts, which are often closely intertwined with feelings. From the perspective of mindfulness practice, a person can begin to see thoughts (including upsetting, sad or disturbing thoughts) as simply mental phenomena that come and go and do not necessarily have any inherent meaning or value.
Participants in MBCT programs (now offered for people with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-partum depression and other conditions as well) learn to practice mindfulness meditation and other activities that help them escape from a cycle of emotional reactivity to thoughts and bodily sensations to avoid downward spirals into depression, anxiety or fear.