Mindfulness Based Interventions

What are Mindfulness Based Interventions?

Woman, wrapped in blanket, sits and watches sunset at the beach.

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are psychological interventions that are derived from or inspired by mindfulness meditation. MBIs typically involve teaching people formal mindfulness practices, such as mindfulness meditation, and then applying these practices to specific problems or goals. Formal mindfulness practice generally refers to the regular deliberate cultivation of mindfulness, usually through some form of meditation.

The most common types of MBIs:

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR),
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

While there are similarities between these interventions, they each have their own unique components and applications.


MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s and is one of the most widely-studied MBIs. It is typically delivered in an 8-week group format and includes weekly 2.5 hour meetings, a daylong retreat, and home practice assignments. The core component of MBSR is a form of mindfulness meditation known as body scan, which involves lying down and systematically paying attention to different parts of the body. Other components include mindful movement practices, such as yoga, and various educational materials on stress physiology and coping strategies. MBSR has been shown to be effective for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and improving overall well-being.

A stylized white flower.

MBCT was developed in the 1990s by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale as a preventative intervention for recurring depression. It is typically delivered in an 8-week group format with weekly 2-hour meetings and a daylong retreat. Like MBSR, MBCT includes a form of mindfulness meditation known as body scan as well as other mindful movement practices. In addition, MBCT specifically targets cognitive processes that maintain depression such as rumination and negative biases in thinking. Unlike MBSR, which is open to anyone regardless of whether they are currently experiencing mental health problems, MBCT is designed specifically for people who have a history of recurrent depression.

ACT was developed in the 1980s by Steven Hayes and is primarily concerned with helping people to accept difficult thoughts and feelings rather than trying to control or eliminate them. It is typically delivered in a group format over 6-12 weeks with weekly 2-hour meetings although it can also be delivered in individual therapy sessions. ACT includes various mindfulness exercises as well as experiential exercises designed to increase psychological flexibility – the ability to contact the present moment more fully with less avoidance of difficult thoughts and feelings. ACT has been shown to be effective for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, substance use problems, and eating disorders.

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References: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Kabat-ZinnMindfuless_History_and_Review.pdf https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/mindfulness-based-interventions

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”

― Jon Kabat Zinn

“Mindfulness increases activation of the medial prefrontal cortex and decreases activation of structures like the amygdala that trigger our emotional responses. This increases our control over the emotional brain.”

― Bessel A. van der Kolk