MBCT for Depression Anywhere, Anytime: An Interview with Zindel Segal, PhD

Elisha Goldstein speaks with Zindel Segal about an online program called Mindful Noggin that can bring MBCT to you on the go.

Alex (Eflon)/Flickr.com

Over a decade ago, Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale developed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for helping people not relapse into depression. Over time study after study has come out showing the positive impact MBCT has in relapse depression. I’ve taught this program many many times and have seen the transformative power of it firsthand. At the same time I would get emails from people across the country asking if I knew if it was in their area. Often times it wasn’t, but now Zindel Segal and Sona Dimidjian have solved that problem.

Today, Zindel talks to us about a new online program called Mindful Noggin that can bring MBCT to you anywhere, anytime.

Elisha: The Mindful Noggin is a great name, what exactly is it and how do you see it pushing the needle forward on integrating MBCT into our daily lives?

Zindel: I am glad you like the name Mindful Noggin. It refers to an ongoing collaboration with eLearning Specialists NogginLabs. Sona Dimidjian and I drew on their talents to build a digital version of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, called Mindful Mood Balance (MMB), as part of an NIMH funded study to see whether MBCT could be delivered over the web. We developed MMB for patients who wanted to learn the core practices of MMB but didn’t have access to an in-person group.We also realized, though, that it could be a helpful format for clinicians who wanted to learn MBCT. It provides a way to learn the core practices of MBCT in a highly experiential, immerse context. The various interactivities, videoclips and expert guidance for patients in Mindful Mood Balance could provide the same type of focal training to support therapists who may be providing MBCT or offering elements of the model to their clients.

Our emphasis is squarely on supporting mindful affect regulation and extending its availability beyond the cushion to the everyday moments of people’s lives. We also developed a companion program called the Three-Minute Breathing Space.

Elisha: What kind of research have you done on this online program?

Zindel: Quite a bit, it turns out. We’ve published three papers on Mindful Mood Balance, including a manuscript that reports the main outcomes from our study with 100 partially remitted depressed patients at Kaiser-Permanente Colorado who received MMB and reported a decrease in the severity of residual depressive symptoms (Dimidjian et al. in press – Behav Res & Ther) as well as a qualitative study (Boggs et al., 2014) and a case report (Felder et al., 2014). We also conducted a small pilot study with therapists utilizing the Three-Minute Breathing Space in their clinical practices.

Three Minute-Breathing Space

For your readers who are not familiar with it, the 3MBS is a mini meditation that was designed to bring the perspective of the more formal and longer practice of mindfulness into our often, very busy lives. What folks learn is the intentional and flexible engagement of two types of attention; one that is open and another that is focused.

1. In the first step of the 3MBS, the emphasis is on Awareness, especially recognizing and acknowledging one’s current experience.

2. Step 2 emphasizes Gathering, particularly by bringing the attention to the sensations of the breath in a particular place in the body.

3. The final step is about Expanding the awareness into the body as a whole using the particular sensations of the breath as an anchor, while opening to the range of experience that is present.

We like to suggest that the movement of attention in the 3MBS can be seen as following the path of an hourglass—starting with a wide opening, moving to a narrow throat and expanding once again at a wide base. Because it’s simple, brief and accessible, you can take a 3MBS wherever and whenever you remember to do so.

Elisha: If you were to pick one of the most impactful practices from the program, what would it be and how can we begin practicing it now?

Zindel: That’s a really good question. I would pick the Three-Minute Breathing Space training (3MBS) because it is really the spine of the MBCT program. The cool thing about the 3MBS training is that the training starts with embedding this practice in your own life, so that it can be understood from the inside. With this foundation in place, the program supports introducing 3MBS to your clients, leading mindfulness practices with your clients, conducting inquiry and recording mindfulness practices to support your clients’ home practice.

We developed it in response to what many therapists who have attended in person MBCT workshops and were asking for—continued support and engagement with a learning community and help in implementing and refining newly acquired skills.

This post was originally published on Mindful.org on October 17, 2014