Group Mindfulness Shows Promise Reducing Depression Associated with Hearing Voices

Justin Karter
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A new study out of Kings College London found that twelve sessions of a group mindfulness-based therapy relieved distress associated with hearing voices while reducing depression over the long-term. The person-based cognitive therapy (PBCT) intervention had significant effects on depression, voice distress, voice controllability and overall recovery.

“Overall when delivered over 12 weeks, group PBCT for distressing voices shows promise as an intervention to reduce the distress and disturbance associated with voice hearing experiences in the context of psychosis,” the researchers, led by psychologist Paul Chadwick, conclude.

A new study suggests that group therapy and mindfulness training should be made more widely available for the treatment of symptoms related to psychosis
A new study suggests that group therapy and mindfulness training should be made more widely available for the treatment of symptoms related to psychosis

While individual therapy is recommended in both the US and the UK for the treatment of symptoms associated with psychosis and schizophrenia, access to these treatments remains poor in both countries. Now, new evidence is emerging that group therapy and, specifically, group mindfulness-based interventions have benefits for people hearing voices and experiencing symptoms associated with psychosis.

Chadwick and his colleagues define mindfulness as “a state of non-judgemental and accepting awareness of present-moment experiences (such as thoughts, voices, and bodily sensations)” and they build on qualitative research suggesting that learning mindfulness techniques can reduce distress and facilitate increased acceptance of symptoms associated with psychosis.

This study is the first randomized control trial to compare the use of PBCT with treatment as usual (TAU) to TAU alone for the experience of distress associated with hearing voices. The researchers include the following description of the PBCT mindfulness practice as it was delivered to participants.

“Briefly: All sessions began with mindfulness practice and discussion. Mindfulness practice in PBCT is brief (10 min), focussed with frequent guidance that includes reference to psychotic experience, and focused attention on body and breath with open awareness. Sessions 1–3 socratically drew out participants’ voice hearing experiences (onset, impact, meaning, distress and coping) and framed them using the ABC cognitive model. Sessions 4–6 explored personal control, socratically weakening voice omnipotence and enhancing autonomy. Sessions 7–12 added focus on identifying and decentring fromnegative schemata, and building positive schematic beliefs (including using experiential two chairwork) alongside recognition that the self is complex and changing. Participants were encouraged to practice mindfulness daily at home, using a supplied 10 min recording, and each week one further homework was set relating to work on voices or self (e.g. Session 6: keeping a record of times when I chose what to do in spite of the voices).”

Seventy-two percent (39) participants completed at least eight of the twelve PBCT sessions. Among those who completed at least eight sessions, the researchers found that they had less intense distress from voices and had a significant improvement in depression symptoms, a finding that remained significant at the six-month follow-up. The study also found that the intervention significantly reduced the extent to which the participants felt controlled by the voices and that participants also reported feeling that they had more choice and agency to make positive decisions.

 

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Chadwick, P., Strauss, C., Jones, A.M., Kingdon, D., Ellett, L., Dannahy, L. and Hayward, M., 2016. Group mindfulness-based intervention for distressing voices: A pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Schizophrenia Research. (Abstract)

10 COMMENTS

    • I was going to say the same thing! Voice to God technology was used in the Gulf War. Thousands (perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands) today say it is being used on them. Today, it’s referred to as voice-to-skull or v2k. These weapons were developed to drive a person crazy. They are being used on so-called dissenters and undesirables. We need the mental health field to be aware of this.

  1. Since it’s the medications that disable, effective non drug solutions can save the UK NHS a fortune.

    I think everyone gets things wrong. Mindfulness can be about looking at situations once the emotions have passed, and recognising the distortions.

      • Hi truth,

        When I’m in an anxiety loop it has its own logic that holds it in place but moving away from my thinking takes me out again. And then the logic doesn’t apply.

        It’s only from practice that I realise that I can come out again. As Anxiety can be very convincing.

        • I think both of you are right. In terms of “becoming aware of the emotions and sitting with them” – it is useful to notice how these emotions (whether they are depression provoking or anxiety provoking) come and go during meditation. We can observe that we are not making them come, they come when they want to come, stay for a while and go away! If we deliberately try to make them come, they may not even come!
          Regarding what Fiachra says, “looking at situations once the emotions have passed” can also be quite useful, to get an ideal about the fleeting nature of these thoughts/situations.

  2. First, I’d like to point out the truth that the “antipsychotic” / neuroleptic drugs and antidepressants can, and in some cases do, create “psychosis,” since all the doctors deny this reality, unless it’s actually medically pointed out to them. (Please, do feel free to point this out to your doctors and psychiatrists, too.) From Wiki:

    “The symptoms of an anticholinergic toxidrome include … hallucinations, … psychosis, … Substances that may cause this toxidrome include the four ‘anti’s of antihistamines, antipsychotics, antidepressants, ….”

    In actuality, the only difference between the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia” and the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome, is “inactivity” vs. “hyperactivity.” But the doctors can’t tell the difference because the neuroleptics do cause everyone to sleep a lot, which appears to them as “inactivity.”

    Second, I will say that when one does suffer from anticholinergic toxidrome induced “voices,” likely always misdiagnosed as one of the billable “psychotic” DSM disorders. I found staying busy with friends, but keeping good calendar notes and living by one’s calendar, was very helpful.

    My psychiatrist told me my “voices” were not relevant to my life, this turned out to be wrong. Since I did have the “voices” of the child abusers whose lies, according to my medical records, had been used to have me misdiagnosed, and drugged, in my head, bragging about their rape of my child the entire time I was psychiatrically poisoned. And I was later also handed over the medical evidence of the child abuse, by some rightfully disgusted by my doctors, decent nurses. Although, in the interim, I did ignore the “voices,” based upon my psychiatrist’s supposed insight. And ignoring evil, psychotomimetic “voices” is sanguine advise.

    I also found regular moderate exercise (an hour a day) invaluable to my survival, while dealing with “The System.” I also found having a creative outlet very therapeutic. Eating healthy, home cooked food was also important. And absolutely spending time in nature, in my case gardening and biking, is infinitely more healing, than being locked up in a sunless hospital, forced fed toxic, psychosis inducing drugs, like the antipsychotics and antidepressants.

    I don’t know much about mindfulness meditation, but do know the medical community is looking for billable solutions to cure life’s difficult situations. And they’re obviously working very hard to maintain today’s psychiatric industry’s very profitable child abuse covering up industry, given the reality that “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).” But God / Nature / Spirit (whatever you may believe in) has given us wiser solutions, than the for-profit only, child abuse covering up, medical community ever can.

  3. Someone else,

    Distressed people are sometimes distressed all there lives and they don’t realise that life can be seen reasonably. But I think that if they break down they would be better off receiving Mindfulness and CBT than Olanzapine and Haloperidol.

    Mindfulness can lead a person out of a distressed frame of mind into a reasonable frame of mind.
    So for me it can work very well for anxiety (when I’m able to do it).

    But its known from history anyway that humane drugless treatment can recover people quicker and better than anything that’s available today.

    The only problem might be that people supposedly teaching ‘mindfulness’ mightn’t know anything about it.