An online version of a pioneering therapy aimed at reducing the lingering symptoms of depression can offer additional benefits for patients receiving care, according to a new U of T Scarborough study.
When added to regular depression care, the online version of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can help treat depression symptoms and help prevent its return, says U of T Scarborough Professor Zindel Segal, a clinical psychologist and lead author of the study.
“Treatments work well for many suffering from depression, but there remains a considerable group who continue to struggle with lingering symptoms such as sleep, energy or worry,” he says.
Clinical data shows that in the absence of treatment, these patients face a significantly higher risk of becoming fully depressed again, notes Segal.
“Patients with these residual symptoms face a gap in care since they are not depressed enough to warrant re-treatment, but receive few resources for managing the symptom burden they still carry.”
The digital version of MBCT, called Mindful Mood Balance (MMB), is an online adaptation of the effective treatment developed by Segal and his colleagues. It combines the practice of mindfulness meditation with the tools of cognitive therapy to teach patients adaptive ways of regulating their emotions. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps patients observe rather than act automatically to any thought, feeling or sensation that comes to mind, setting them up for being able to choose how best to respond, explains Segal.
“Our goal has always been for people to develop skills that they could continue to rely on once treatment had ended,” he says.
While research indicates that MBCT is as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing relapse, access remains limited and nearly impossible for those living outside large cities.
“What drove us to develop MMB is to improve access to this treatment. The online version uses the same content as the in-person sessions, except people can now avoid the barriers of cost, travel or wait times, and they can get the care they need efficiently and conveniently,” he says.