New Meta-Analysis: Mindfulness Interventions Effective for Psychiatric Disorders

A meta-analysis of mindfulness-based interventions shows efficacy for treating depression, physical pain, smoking, and addictive disorders.


A new study, published in Clinical Psychology Review, investigates the effects of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) on psychiatric disorders. Results of the first comprehensive meta-analysis of its kind found consistent evidence that mindfulness is effective for depression, pain conditions, smoking, and addictive disorders. This research further supports an ongoing understanding of MBIs as an effective and viable alternative treatment.

“At the most basic level, our results suggest that there is an empirical basis for mindfulness-based therapies,” the researchers, lead by Simon B. Goldberg, write. “Mindfulness treatments were shown, in general, to be of similar potency with first-line psychological (and psychiatric) interventions when compared directly and superior to other active comparison conditions (as well as waitlist control conditions), with relatively little variation across disorders.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reeducation (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are distinguished in the emerging mindfulness field from other mindfulness practices such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The distinction is made by MBI’s emphasis on a sustained focus of mindfulness meditation practice, a component of home practice, and a requirement of an experienced mindfulness teacher among other key features.

Mindfulness research has exploded in recent decades, growing into its position in various academic fields from its virtual nonexistence in the 1980s. Research remains in its infancy 30 years later, tackling such challenges as dosage required, fidelity of implementation, and how the practice will shift to meet the needs of various environments and populations.

As is true with most newly developing subjects, popularity in the community has out-paced the evidence base for MBIs. Critics have raised important questions regarding the evidence base highlighting the use of non-active control conditions in randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Others have stressed that studies have selectively reported positive outcomes of MBIs, introducing bias and false efficacy into the field, and creating an insecure foundation for future research.

In the first ever comprehensive meta-analysis of MBIs to examine effects on disorder-specific symptoms across psychiatric conditions, Goldberg and his team reviewed 171 studies involving over 12,000 participants between 2000 and 2016. Authors included all RCTs of MBIs involving adult populations with formal psychiatric diagnosis.

“While other comprehensive meta-analyses have suggested that mindfulness-based interventions can impact clinical outcomes, and several meta-analyses have examined the evidence for specific psychiatric conditions, no published comprehensive meta-analytic review has examined effects on disorder-specific symptoms across psychiatric conditions.”

At post-treatment Goldberg and his team’s meta-analysis found MBIs to have superior effects on outcomes for anxiety, depression, physical pain, schizophrenia, weight/eating-related disorders, and addictions. MBIs were superior to comparison groups for depression and addiction, and equivalent for anxiety, physical pain, and weight/eating-related disorders’ comparison groups.

“The magnitude of the effect sizes detected in the current study (e.g., d = 0.55 for mindfulness versus no treatment comparison conditions at post-treatment) suggests that mindfulness-based interventions are, on average, associated with moderate drops in psychiatric symptoms.”

“Based on our findings, it appears that the strongest recommendation can be made for mindfulness treatments for depression with evidence also supporting the use of mindfulness for treating pain conditions, smoking, and addictive disorders.”

This study’s comprehensive examination of MBIs is an important development in the growing field of mindfulness. As this mind-body approach to mental and physical health expands to serve a growing number of people, studies like this provide integrity and stability to the field. Mindfulness provides an alternative to biomedical approaches, which may not be the best fit for all people struggling with psychiatric disorders. Understanding the effectiveness of MBIs allows the field to recognize future directions and provides an encouraging outlook for medical and mental health providers.



Goldberg, S. B., Tucker, R. P., Greene, P. A., Davidson, R. J., Wampold, B. E., Kearney, D. J., & Simpson, T. L. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions for psychiatric disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review. (Link)


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.

Previous articleDoctors Receive Opioid Training. Big Pharma Funds It.
Next articleBig Pharma: The Global Effect
Jessica Janze
MIA Research News Team: Jessica Janze is a doctoral student in the Counseling and School Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has worked primarily with children impacted by psychological trauma. Jessica’s research interests include the impact of mindfulness in early education, emotional regulation, and the role contemplative practices play in mental health.


  1. I do agree “mindfulness” couldn’t possibly harm people as much as the psychiatric drugs.

    All the “mental health professionals” who put all their eggs into the drug only “chemical imbalance” deluded DSM theory of “mental illness,” were pretty dumb. You all owe those you’ve harmed, and the families of all those you’ve killed, a lot.

    And really, “Understanding the effectiveness of MBIs allows the field to recognize future directions and provides an encouraging outlook for medical and mental health providers.” Why does it always seem to be about what’s good for the “mental health providers,” rather than your patients?

    The psychiatrists have been mass murdering their patients for decades.

    Any remorse whatsoever? I am unaware of any. What do the self centered, psychopathic psychiatrists believe your malpractice insurance is for anyway?

    I do not believe there will be a free forgiveness day. You people, like all others, will be judged fairly. I hope all you unrepentant “mental health professionals” will some day realize it’s not just about you, obviously you’re not to that point in your awakening yet.

    But there are millions online who are “waking up,” or becoming “aware,” or “taking the red pill.” Wake up, mental health professionals, you shouldn’t be in charge. You’re the highly “delusions of grandeur filled,” that you ironically believe deserve eternal damnation.

    Report comment

  2. I think where the present day psychiatrists have failed is in trying to describe everything in terms of the material brain. Because mental activity is correlated with the activity of the brain, they wrongly assume that the brain has to be “treated” with medicines. However, numerous studies have repeatedly shown that our brains are constantly changing AS A RESULT OF our mental experiences. For example, psychological stresses bring about structural changes in the brain and these changes are reversible when these stresses are removed (neuroplastic and epigenetic mechanisms).

    Regarding this, Dr. Beauregard says that the mind (the psychological world, the first-person perspective) and the brain (which is part of the ‘‘physical’’ world, the third-person perspective) represent two epistemologically and ontologically distinct domains that can interact because they are complementary aspects of the same underlying reality. Metaphorically, he refers to the language of the mind as “mentalese” and the language of the brain as “neuronese”! I think this is a great way to present this difference. Here’s the reference to that article:

    Beauregard, M. (2007). Mind does really matter: Evidence from neuroimaging studies of emotional self-regulation, psychotherapy, and placebo effect. Progress in neurobiology, 81(4), 218-236.

    Relating to this, Buddhist philosophical teachings (upon which “mindfulness” originated), comprehensively describe the “mind” (consciousness) in terms of constantly changing sense impressions and mental phenomena (“mentalese”), and how various factors such as past conditioning as well as various attachments we hold influence the manifestation of experience. The following article comprehensively describes the moment-by-moment manifestation of the mind:

    Karunamuni, N., and Weerasekera, R. (2017). Theoretical Foundations to Guide Mindfulness Meditation: A Path to Wisdom. Current Psychology.

    Report comment