Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
MBCT for OCD
By Dr. Fabrizio Didonna
Rationale, Structure and Basic Principles
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for OCD is an innovative, standardized and manualized treatment program designed to create significant clinical and life improvement in people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Based on the research and clinical experience of Dr Fabrizio Didonna and documented in his handbook Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (New York, Guilford Press) the program integrates tools of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with the practice and clinical application of mindfulness and compassion.
This therapeutic program is the culmination of twenty years of the founder’s work with hundreds of people affected by OCD, and about fifteen years of practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation, especially MBCT.
The MBCT for OCD program is clearly derived from and inspired by MBCT for depression, especially with respect to the framework, scope and several exercises, and as such can be considered an offspring of the model. Nevertheless, MBCT for OCD has a different rationale from MBCT for depression, and many original and unique practices, exercises, themes and materials have been created, modified or added to work with this specific clinical population.
The heart of MBCT for OCD lies in acquainting patients with the modes of mind and cognitive mechanisms that characterize OCD, while simultaneously inviting them to develop a new relationship to their internal experience. Patients learn to view thoughts as events in the mind, independent of their content and emotional charge. They need not be disputed, fixed or changed but are held in a more spacious awareness, large enough to contain aspects of the self deemed both broken and whole.
Over time and through intensive practice during the sessions and at home, this intensive therapeutic program aims to help individuals with OCD, step by step, to recognize and overcome the specific and/or generic biases and dysfunctional mechanisms that activate and maintain their disorder, to learn new effective strategies to neutralize those mechanisms and to develop stable and healthy ways to relate to their internal experience.
The main ‘work’ of the program is done at home between classes, using audio files with guided exercises that support participants’ developing practice outside of class. Home practice will take about 1 hour a day, 7 days a week.
In each session, participants have the opportunity to talk about their experiences with the home practices, the obstacles that inevitably arise, and how to deal with them skillfully. Each class is organized around a theme that is explored through both group inquiry and mindfulness practice.
Number of sessions and length of time
MBCT for OCD is made up of 11 sessions, each lasting 2½ hours – except for Session 3, which is with family members and/or partners and lasts 1½ hours, and Session 11, which is a one-day session of intensive practice and review.