What Is Mindfulness Therapy?

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Cognitive Therapy, MBCBT, MBCT

Mindfulness is being aware of internal thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as well as external surroundings and situations, without automatic responses such as judgment or stress. Mindfulness therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on learning how to be more aware and to reduce automatic responses.

This article will explain what is involved with mindfulness therapy, the types of professionals who provide it, and training required for providers. We will also discuss the various types of mindfulness therapy and their uses.

A woman with closed eyes practicing mindfulness therapy

Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

What It Involves

Mindfulness therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Psychotherapy is a conversation-based intervention provided by a trained mental health professional to assess, diagnose, and treat dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviors.

Mindfulness therapy does this by incorporating awareness of thoughts, emotions, feelings, surroundings, and situations. It involves conversations with professionals that help a person develop greater awareness of their thoughts and the world around them. This increased awareness helps them avoid destructive or automatic responses or habits.

Types of Professionals Who Provide It

Different types of professionals may provide mindfulness therapy, including psychologists and therapists. Other health professionals, such as licensed professional counselors and licensed clinical social workers, may also incorporate mindfulness.

Sessions can be delivered one-on-one or in a group setting and in an office or virtually via video conferencing.

Mindfulness Techniques vs Therapy

While other practices such as yoga and meditation do include mindfulness techniques, this is not considered mindfulness therapy because it does not include psychotherapy with a mental health professional. However, some mental health professionals do incorporate meditation in psychotherapy.

Conditions Treated and Concerns Addressed

Mindfulness therapy is used to treat a variety of different medical conditions, both mental and physical. Additionally, it can help to address life concerns that are not limited to medical conditions. Some examples of the health and life benefits of mindfulness therapy include decreased depression and anxiety symptoms, improved focus and memory, less stress, more relationship satisfaction, and increased overall quality of life.

Mindfulness therapy can be used for:

Types of Mindfulness Therapy

Mindfulness therapy is a type of psychotherapy. There are also different types of mindfulness therapy, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy (MBSR). Additionally, mindfulness can be incorporated into other forms of therapy.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy or MBCT

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or MBCT, is a type of psychotherapy that incorporates mindfulness practices with cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy, or CT, is a type of talk therapy that involves identifying dysfunctional thoughts and learning how to choose different thoughts instead, which is called cognitive restructuring. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may include this cognitive restructuring technique plus mindfulness meditation or other mindfulness practices.

The three-minute breathing space is a common MBCT technique. During this exercise, you are asked to follow three one-minute steps:

  1. Ask yourself, "How am I doing right now?" Focus on and identify the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that may come from this question.
  2. Bring your awareness to your breath and sit with it.
  3. Assess your physical sensations and how they are affecting the rest of your body.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Mindfulness-Based CBT

Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, or mindfulness-based CBT, is a type of psychotherapy or integrative therapy that incorporates mindfulness practices with cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of talk therapy that combines cognitive therapy with behavior therapy, focusing on how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors relate to and influence one another.

The terms "mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy" and "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" are sometimes used interchangeably.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy or MBSR

Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy, or MBSR, is a type of psychotherapy that incorporates mindfulness practices with stress management techniques. This creates a mindfulness protocol specifically for stress, as opposed to a practice for something else that has an added benefit of stress relief.

MBSR has also been shown effective in improving chronic illness, both physical and mental, by helping people cope with symptoms and clinical problems.

Other Types of Mindfulness Training

In addition to mindfulness therapy, there are other mindfulness practices that do not involve therapy. These include breathing techniques, visualization, yoga, and meditation. They can be learned at home without the support of a professional. This is unlike mindfulness-based therapy options, which require the support of a mental health professional.

Education, Training, and Certifications

Since mindfulness-based therapy is a type of psychotherapy, it requires training and certification to facilitate. The specific education, training, and certification depends on the provider.

For example, psychiatrists obtain medical doctorate degrees (MD), psychologists obtain doctorate degrees (Ph.D), while therapists and counselors generally have master's degrees in their respective fields. They may receive specialized training and certification in specific mindfulness techniques and practices on top of their education and licensure requirements. There are also training and certifications available to learn how to teach other mindfulness-based practices such as yoga and meditation.

Summary

Mindfulness therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on learning how to be more aware of thoughts, feelings, emotions, surroundings, and situations, and to reduce automatic responses. It is provided by psychologists, therapists, and other mental health professionals through conversations in the office setting or virtually via video conferencing.

Mindfulness-based therapy can treat various physical and mental health conditions and improve overall daily functioning and quality of life.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy (MBSR) are all types of mindfulness-based therapy. Providers of mindfulness-based therapy, such as psychologists and therapists, receive either master's or doctorate level education and may hold additional certifications specific to mindfulness.

A Word From Verywell

Mindfulness-based therapy can be an effective treatment for many health conditions. Additionally, it can be used along with other interventions as a way to help cope with the side effects of medical conditions. If you think you may benefit from mindfulness-based therapy or mindfulness practices, talk to your healthcare provider. You can enjoy the benefits of improved symptoms, increased health, and better quality of life.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Mindfulness.

  2. American Psychological Association. Psychotherapy.

  3. Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. Meditation and the mindfulness trend in psychotherapy.

  4. American Psychological Association. What are the benefits of mindfulness?

  5. Pollack SM, Pedulla T, Siegel RD. Three ways to bring mindfulness into therapy. University of California Berkeley.

  6. Brown School of Public Health. What is mindfulness based cognitive therapy?

  7. American Psychological Association. Cognitive therapy (CT).

  8. American Psychological Association. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

  9. Niazi AK, Niazi SK. Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a non-pharmacological approach for chronic illnesses. N Am J Med Sci. 2011;3(1):20-23. doi:10.4297/najms.2011.320

  10. Human Services. Counselor vs. therapist vs. psychologist.