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Major depressive disorder (MDD) is currently ranked the third leading cause of disability in the world. Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) causes the majority of MDD disability. Strikingly, 50% of individuals with MDD will fail to remit with 2 adequate trials of antidepressant medications, thus qualifying as treatment resistant. Current pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment strategies for TRD are limited in effectiveness, thus, new interventions are needed. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a new psychotherapeutic treatment with established efficacy in preventing relapse of depression for individuals in complete remission. MBCT is a group-based, 8-week intervention that uses mindfulness meditation as its core therapeutic technique. It teaches people to have a different relationship to depressive thoughts and feelings. Strategies are focused on decreasing rumination, enhancing self-compassion, increasing acceptance, and decreasing avoidance. This modified version of MCBT, which includes the use of metaphor and adaptations of the original intervention, will be discussed through the clinical case of a woman with long-standing TRD. A brief review of the current MBCT literature and future directions for the treatment of TRD are discussed.

Up to 50% of individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not recover after two antidepressant medication trials, and therefore meet the criteria for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is one promising treatment; however, the extent to which MBCT influences clinical outcomes relative to baseline neural activation remains unknown. In the present study we investigated baseline differences in amygdala activation between TRD patients and healthy controls (HCs), related amygdala activation to depression symptoms, and examined the impacts of MBCT and amygdala activation on longitudinal depression outcomes. At baseline, TRD patients (n = 80) and HCs (n = 37) participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging task in which they identified either the emotion (affect labeling) or the gender (gender labeling) of faces, or passively viewed faces (observing). The TRD participants then completed eight weeks of MBCT or a health enhancement program (HEP). Relative to HCs, the TRD patients demonstrated less amygdala activation during affect labeling, and marginally less during gender labeling. Blunted amygdala activation in TRD patients during affect labeling was associated with greater depression severity. MBCT was associated with greater depression reductions than was HEP directly following treatment; however, at 52 weeks the treatment effect was not significant, and baseline amygdala activation across the task conditions predicted depression severity in both groups. TRD patients have blunted amygdala responses during affect labeling that are associated with greater concurrent depression. Furthermore, although MBCT produced greater short-term improvements in depression than did HEP, overall baseline amygdala reactivity was predictive of long-term clinical outcomes in both groups.

BackgroundMajor depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the developed world, yet broadly effective treatments remain elusive. Up to 40% of patients with depression are unresponsive to at least two trials of antidepressant medication and thus have “treatment-resistant depression” (TRD). There is an urgent need for cost-effective, non-pharmacologic, evidence-based treatments for TRD. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an effective treatment for relapse prevention and residual depression in major depression, but has not been previously studied in patients with TRD in a large randomized trial. Methods/Design The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether MBCT is an effective augmentation of antidepressants for adults with MDD who failed to respond to standard pharmacotherapy. MBCT was compared to an active control condition, the Health-Enhancement Program (HEP), which incorporates physical activity, functional movement, music therapy and nutritional advice. HEP was designed as a comparator condition for mindfulness-based interventions to control for non-specific effects. Originally investigated in a non-clinical sample to promote stress reduction, HEP was adapted for a depressed population for this study. Individuals age 18 and older with moderate to severe TRD, who failed to respond to at least two trials of antidepressants in the current episode, were recruited to participate. All participants were taking antidepressants (Treatment as usual; TAU) at the time of enrollment. After signing an informed consent, participants were randomly assigned to either MBCT or HEP condition. Participants were followed for 1 year and assessed at weeks 1–7, 8, 24, 36, and 52. Change in depression severity, rate of treatment response and remission after 8 weeks were the primary outcomes measured by the clinician-rated Hamilton Depression Severity Rating (HAM-D) 17-item scale. The participant-rated Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomology (QIDS-SR) 16-item scale was the secondary outcome measure of depression severity, response, and remission. Discussion Treatment-resistant depression entails significant morbidity and has few effective treatments. We studied the effect of augmenting antidepressant medication with MBCT, compared with a HEP control, for patients with TRD. Analyses will focus on clinician and patient assessment of depression, participants’ clinical global impression change, employment and social functioning scores and quality of life and satisfaction ratings.

Major depressive disorder is often chronic and characterized by relapse and recurrence despite successful treatments to induce remission. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) was developed as a means of preventing relapse for individuals in remission using cognitive interventions. In addition, MBCT has preliminarily been found to be useful in treating active depression. This current investigation is unique in evaluating the long-term outcome of individuals with active depression who achieved remission with MBCT. Eighteen participants who achieved remission after an 8-week MBCT group were seen for evaluation at a mean follow-up interval of 48.7 months (SD = 10.2) after completing treatment. The current study shows that in these participants, the gains achieved after the initial treatment including remission of depression, decreased rumination, decreased anxiety, and increased mindfulness continued for up to 58.9 months of follow-up. The data suggest that all levels of depression from less recurrent and mild to more recurrent and severe were responsive to MBCT. The average number of minutes per week of continued practice in our cohort was 210, but the number of minutes of practice did not correlate with depression outcomes. MBCT's effects may be more related to regularity of practice than specific quantity. This study provides a preliminary exploration of MBCT's long-term effects, which can aid in future research with a typically chronic illness.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the developed world, yet broadly effective treatments remain elusive. The primary aim of this pilot study was to investigate the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) monotherapy, compared to sertraline monotherapy, for patients with acute MDD. This open-label, nonrandomized controlled trial examined a MBCT cohort (N = 23) recruited to match the gender, age, and depression severity of a depressed control group (N = 20) that completed 8 weeks of monotherapy with the antidepressant sertraline. The 17-item clinician-rated Hamilton Depression Severity Rating Scale (HAMD-17) was the primary outcome measure of depression to assess overall change after 8 weeks and rates of response and remission. The 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self Report (QIDS-SR16) was the secondary outcome measure to further assess depression severity. Both cohorts were demographically similar and showed significant improvement in depression ratings. No difference was found in the degree of change in HAMD-17 scores (t(34) = 1.42, p = 0.165) between groups. Secondary analysis showed statistically significant differences in mean scores of the QIDS-SR16 (t(32) = 4.39, p < 0.0001), with the MBCT group showing greater mean improvement. This study was limited by the small sample size and non-randomized, non-blinded design. Preliminary findings suggest that an 8-week course of MBCT monotherapy may be effective in treating MDD and is a viable alternative to antidepressant medication. Greater changes in the self-rated QIDS-SR16 for the MBCT cohort raise the possibility that patients derive additional subjective benefit from enhanced self-efficacy skills.