New study shows the benefits of mindfulness self-help in treating depression in adults

27 March 2023

New research has demonstrated how guided mindfulness self-help can significantly reduce symptoms of depression - potentially improving the lives of thousands of patients.

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust (SPFT) has led a study on the clinician-supported use of Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy self-help (MBCT-SH).

Results of the study show how guided use of a specialised mindfulness self-help book was more effective at treating people experiencing mild to moderate depression than the  NICE-recommended treatment of guided Cognitive Behavioural Therapy self-help (CBT-SH).

Currently, patients referred with depression are usually given a CBT self-help book or materials with support from a trained practitioner. The study found that the mindfulness self-help book, in conjunction with practitioner support, led to a 17.5% improvement in recovery from depression in comparison to practitioner-supported CBT self help.

In addition, the study, which was funded the by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), found the mindfulness self-help intervention saved the NHS more than £500 per patient.

Professor Clara Strauss.jpg
Professor Clara Strauss


Professor Clara Strauss, Deputy Director of Research at SPFT and Professor of Clinical Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, is the lead researcher of the randomised controlled trial.

She said:

“At least one in 10 people will experience depression at some point, yet only one in four get the treatment they need.

“Our study showed that people experiencing mild to moderate depression receiving one-to-one, clinician-supported mindfulness self-help were significantly less depressed 16 weeks after the intervention started, compared to people receiving clinician-supported CBT-SH.

“It improves treatment outcomes, while also saving the NHS money. The self-help book provides a week-by week guide to develop mindfulness skills so that people are better able to notice, accept and respond to their experiences in a way that could free them from depression.”

The principles of MBCT-SH are grounded in mindfulness, which supports people to fully notice experiences such as thoughts, feelings and physical sensations with curiosity, acceptance and non-judgement.

The trial, called LIGHTMind2, recruited 410 people in NHS Talking Therapy services across England over a two-year period. Participants were allocated completely randomly to receive either an MBCT-SH or a CBT-SH book, alongside six support sessions with a trained clinician.

The researchers say if guided mindfulness self-help is offered as a treatment choice it will give more people the opportunity to recover from depression. They are now applying for funding so clinicians can be trained to support people in using the self-help book and it can be rolled out at scale.

The full study can be accessed here.