The MBCT group provides intensive training in mindfulness meditation as a vehicle to enhance people’s self awareness of automatic thoughts and feelings. It is by developing greater awareness of automatic thoughts and feelings – particularly when under duress – that people learn to step out of unhelpful ways of reacting that contribute to depression/anxiety/unnecessary stress. They also learn to be able to direct their attention more purposefully to gain a greater appreciation of the present moment.
The group is not a support group – people talk very little about themselves or their past experiences – rather it provides training and support to meditate and an introduction to other mindfulness skills. The group environment provides an opportunity for people to learn that they are not alone in the challenges that they face and greatly increases the likelihood that people will continue in their practice – especially when it becomes frustrating, boring or otherwise difficult.
We practice extended meditations in the group and the facilitator provides a safe environment to explore people’s experiences in these meditations. Meditation is taught in a seated posture but people are free to stand up, kneel, lay down (space permitting) or otherwise adjust their posture if this becomes uncomfortable.
This is a small group with numbers capped at 10 people – this smaller number provides opportunity for optimal therapist input. It is expected that participants commit to attending each of the 8 sessions to get the most from the group. Not attending means that you will not be able to claim the Medicare or PHF rebate for that particular individual session. Medicare has also ruled that no one is able to claim a rebate if numbers drop below 6 in any individual group session.
As well as meditating during the sessions, participants are also required to practice meditation for 35 to 40 minutes each day for the duration of the 8 weeks. If they do not commit to the practice it is unlikely they will gain maximum benefit from the group and we would prefer to keep the small number of available spaces for people who can make this commitment.
There is evidence that MBCT can be harmful for people who are currently (or who have previously experienced) psychosis, have severe or unstable depression (and in particular if they have current suicidal thinking) or who have a brain injury that impacts their self awareness. It is also unlikely to be helpful for people who are extremely avoidant and/or who have very poorly developed ways of coping with difficult thoughts/feelings eg. people with borderline personality disorder and people with alcohol or other drug dependence. This is not to say these people will not benefit from mindfulness, however it is safer and more effective if this is provided one on one in therapy (rather than in a group setting where responses cannot be intensively monitored).