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Awareness Based Cognitive Therapy and
‘Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’


Though ABCT shares many important and valuable basic understandings with so-called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), there are also significance differences. MBCT is an eclectic mix of approaches drawn from Buddhism, cognitive therapies, body-oriented psychotherapies and neuroscience. It also uses an eclectic variety of terms such as meditation, mindfulness, attention, mindful attention, witnessing, being present and awareness in an almost wholly undefined, undifferentiated or synonymous way. ABCT on the other hand, is based on the practice of a single clear principle – ‘The Awareness Principle’ – and on a single foundational term – not ‘mindfulness’ but awareness. In this way it both refines and unifies - conceptually and in practice - all the most central and most valuable insights of MBCT. Another significant difference from ABCT is that MBCT was developed as an approach to treating ‘depression’. In doing so it passively adopts the conventional cultural and medical-model view of depression as a pathological state or ‘illness’. Thus although MBCT teaches techniques which encourage patients to disengage from negative patterns of mental activity which reinforce and fixate chronic depressive states, it fails to recognise the innately healing role of the depressive process. This process is nature’s own substitute for meditation in a manic business culture of pressurised ‘busy-ness’ - one which sees feeling ‘down’ and ‘low’ or mentally slow or ‘ruminative’ – meditative - as ‘negative and, above all, as economically unproductive. The depressive process is thus precisely what such a pressuring culture needs as a healthy balance - helping individuals to slow down, to fully reinhabit their bodies  and to relate to the world from a deeper, more inward place within themselves – something much needed in a world in which there are good reasons for feeling depressed. True ‘mindfulness’ is an emergence of clear insight from a deep bodily awareness of the questions pregnant in all ‘negative’ feelings. This is quite different from experiencing our minds as preoccupied or ‘full’ with unhelpfully negative thoughts – the very type of mind-fulness that MBCT seeks to overcome - whilst ignoring this very connotation of the word itself - which is anyway a misleading translation of the corresponding Buddhist term. That is why ABCT speaks of awareness rather than ‘mindfulness’, recognising as it does that the pure awareness of emotions, thoughts and of ‘mind’ itself, is, in principle, something innately free of emotion and thought -  mind-free rather than ‘mind-full’.