New research published in The Lancet suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) offers a similar protection against depressive relapse or recurrence for patients who have experienced multiple episodes of depression compared to maintenance antidepressant treatment.

In the study, 424 adults with recurrent major depression and taking maintenance antidepressant medication were randomly assigned to slowly discontinue their prescribed medication and receive MBCT or stay on their current therapeutic regimen. Patients in the MBCT arm attended eight group sessions (each lasting two hours and fifteen minutes) and were given daily home practice. These patients were then offered the option to attend four follow-up sessions over a 12-month period. The MBCT course consisted of guided mindfulness practices, group discussion, and other cognitive behavioral exercises, while those in the maintenance antidepressant arm continued their medication for two years. All participants were evaluated at regular intervals over two years for a major depressive episode using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Depressive relapse rates were similar in both groups (44% for MBCT vs. 47% in maintenance antidepressant treatment).

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Although the study only supports the non-inferiority of MBCT in preventing depressive relapse compared to maintenance antidepressant therapy, MBCT could be a cost-effective and feasible alternative for patients who are not eligible for, or choose not to initiate or continue maintenance antidepressant treatment, to protect against depression recurrence.

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