Top critical review
13 people found this helpful
Requires more practice than 'pure' CBT and probably not suitable for everyone
on 18 June 2014
As someone who has suffered from bouts of depression and used CBT techniques both in my recovery and ongoing mental maintenance, I'm interested in alternative approaches to the same subject. I am cynical enough to also recognise that self-help books are big business and the popularity of CBT has lead to a whole market of 'flavours' of CBT.
For the uninitiated, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a method by which you learn to recognise behaviours that indicate a slide into depression and have a toolbox of techniques to challenge the negative thoughts that commonly begin that process. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT for short) uses meditation to achieve calmness and a greater awareness of the world around us. That's an over-simplified summary of what this book is about but it generally tries to teach you to take time out each day to meditate and also to become more aware of the daily actions that we take for granted.
The book mentions a spiritual approach a few times in the early chapters and I was slightly concerned that some religious mumbo jumbo would be introduced but Dr Collard is at pains to point out that you can use these techniques whether you are of a religious persuasion or not.
Here's an example of being more mindful: "When you dry your body, notice the feeling of your towel soaking up the pearls of water" or "...preparing a meal mindfully. You can start when you shop for the meal, looking for the ingredients, appreciating their colour or packaging and their smell". There are step by step instructions for meditation and yoga-like movements, following an 8 week course of different subjects to meditate on or just focussing on silence and breathing.
When I had a depressive phase a few years ago I was signed off from work for a few months; at that time I would probably have been more successful in following this process but I found that being mindful adds additional time to performing basic tasks like getting ready for work. The pace of life is one of the things that the book tries to tackle but that very pace of life I found to be the biggest obstacle to completion. I regularly found when I did the meditation practice that I would end up just dozing off.
Perhaps I am so practised now at the standard CBT techniques that I can apply them without much effort, for example allowing 'bad' thoughts to drift through my mind without diverting attention to them. I also found being mindful of everything, like the feel of pen tip moving over paper when writing, pointless. Again, I'm far more scientific and analytical than spiritual by nature so my experience may well be different to others who are more inclined to faith and belief.
Overall if you want to try self help for depression or anxiety I would recommend the standard CBT for Dummies as the best option and only trying MBCT if you struggle with that. As I've stated in any of my reviews of such topics though, getting professional assistance with CBT is the best option overall and it is available on the NHS.