Research focus


Three studies on mindfulness-based therapy, recommended for depression management and other health conditions, have been reviewed.

Mindfulness-based therapy is recommended for the management of depression, but is increasingly being considered as an intervention for a range of other health conditions. Three studies on mindfulness have been reviewed; one used the standard 8-week programme and two used brief interventions.

Picture: iStock

Participants’ perspectives on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for inflammatory bowel disease: a qualitative study nested within a pilot randomised controlled trial

This qualitative study explored the experience of patients with inflammatory bowel disease recruited to a pilot randomised controlled trial of a standard 8-week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programme consisting of weekly group facilitated sessions together with guided home practice.

Forty-four patients in remission recruited through clinics were randomised to the MBCT or wait-list control group; 18 also participated in the qualitative study.

Focus groups focused on benefits and barriers to MBCT; a postal survey used similar questions to maximise responses and validate the data. Thematic framework analysis was used for the analysis.

MBCT was perceived as an alternative way of coping with anxiety, sleep disturbances, pain and depression. Participants could gain more control over their symptoms and deal with daily stress. The shared experience of MBCT reduced isolation through peer support. Time commitment was the biggest barrier to using MBCT.

The study demonstrated the acceptability of MBCT for people with IBD but was limited by its small sample. Initial expectations of MBCT also appeared to influence participants’ experience of the programme and its impact.

Schoultz M, Macaden L, Hubbard G (2016) Pilot and Feasibility studies. 2, 3. doi:10.1186/s40814-015-0041-z


Views on a brief mindfulness intervention among patients with long term illness

The acceptability and feasibility of a brief mindfulness intervention for self-management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and chronic pain were explored in this study.  

Fourteen participants were recruited from outpatients’ clinics. An audio ‘body scan’ mindfulness practice was administered one-to-one in the clinic by a researcher. Patients administered the ‘body scan’ themselves at least three times over the following week.

Individual interviews were conducted face-to-face in the clinic following the initial ‘body scan’. Focus groups were conducted a week later after home practice. The topic guide focused on acceptability of content and presentation of the ‘body scan’ audio, its usefulness for symptom management and suggested improvements. 

Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The most frequently reported benefit of the ‘body scan’ was relaxation. Other benefits included improved mood, increased coping skills both condition-specific and in general; reduction in medication and motivation to practice meditation. Most responses were positive, but awareness of pain during the practice was reported negatively by two people. 

Overall, the audio was rated acceptable for content and presentation. Only one participant saw time as a barrier to its use. Suggested improvements included increasing the length of the ‘body scan’ and giving more information on mindfulness.

This brief mindfulness intervention was well received and perceived to be beneficial by patients with long term conditions. It was limited by a small sample size, short time frame and follow-up. 

Howarth A, Perkins-Porras L, Copland C .et al (2016) BMC Psychology 4, 56. doi: 10.1186/s40359-016-0163-y

Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison

This pilot RCT compared a short intensive mindfulness in labour (MIL) with a standard childbirth course (no mind-body content) as the control, to evaluate their impact on fear and pain in childbirth.

Nulliparous low-risk women with single pregnancies in their third trimester, planning a hospital delivery were recruited and randomised to MIL (n=15) or standard childbirth preparation (control n=15).

Data were collected through online self-report assessment at baseline, one week post-intervention and within six weeks after birth. Measures included childbirth self-efficacy, maladaptive pain appraisal, perceived pain, use of pain medication in labour, birth satisfaction, depression, mindfulness and mindful body awareness.

The MIL group showed greater childbirth self-efficacy, mindful body awareness and had lower depressive symptoms maintained through the post-partum follow-up, with a trend towards lower opioid use in labour. Retrospective perceived labour pain was not reported to be lower, neither was their use of epidurals. There was no significant difference in birth satisfaction between the intervention and control groups. 

The findings suggested that a mindfulness approach to childbirth education can have a positive impact on labour and childbirth, promote perinatal psychological health and better postpartum outcomes. Limitations included the small study sample and retrospective reporting of labour pain.

Duncan LG, Cohn MA, Chao MT et al (2017) BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17, 140. doi: 10.1186/s12884-017-1319-3

Compiled by Sue Davies, Independent Researcher


This article is for subscribers only