As hard as it is to break the grip of depression and anxiety, it’s even harder to stay free without help. There is, however, good news, and its name is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. A relatively recent technique in mental health, MBCT has, nevertheless, proven incredibly effective at keeping sufferers of depression and anxiety from wandering back down the rabbit hole.

Elizabeth Alberts, director of Village Counseling Services in Lawrenceville, says MBCT helps those plagued by depression and anxiety by reducing or eliminating bouts of these conditions. MBCT has also proven to be very effective in helping those with addiction and attentional issues. The cornerstone of MBCT is helping people become aware of and relate differently to their thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in order to understand what triggers negative or self-destructive behaviors before they can take hold.

Say, for example, you hear that there will be massive layoffs at your company in two weeks. If you’re prone to anxiety and depression, you likely will make yourself sick with worry over the what-ifs. At best, you will simply be unable to set out a plan of action in the event you’re on the layoff list. At worst, you begin acting in self-destructive ways. Your emotional state and your behavior patterns enter a self-propelled cycle in which each feeds the other and makes it worse.

Mindfulness, Alberts says, while teaching you to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, allows you to create the space you need to choose more productive coping skills and not let yourself fall into familiar, even comfortable, patterns of self-destruction.

Village Counseling runs eight-week sessions on MBCT four times a year, with the goal of building effective and productive patterns of thoughts and habits that help you to steer clear of that rabbit hole, without relying too heavily on medication.

For those already caught in the vise of intense negative emotions, who feel hopeless and even suicidal, there is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT. DBT incorporates mindfulness with cognitive behavior therapy and teaches specific coping skills to those who have difficulty regulating or managing their emotions. Alberts says “opposite action” is a skill taught in DBT that teaches patients to do the opposite of whatever their intense emotional state urges them to do. Maybe you want to crawl under the covers and never leave, Alberts says. DBT teaches you to recognize this urge and to instead choose another action, to do something active ‒‒ take a walk, have lunch with a friend, maybe even just take a shower. There are, in fact, more than 50 DBT skills that help people break the grip of depression, anxiety, and other disorders.

Village Counseling Services offers the longest-running comprehensive DBT program in central New Jersey. In fact, Alberts says, many of the region’s best DBT practitioners started at Village Counseling.

Village Counseling Services is well known for staying on top of the latest, proven-effective techniques and methods to help those suffering with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues get out of the darkness and live more enriched and happy lives.

Village Counseling Services, 22 Gordon Avenue, Lawrenceville. 609-844-0452. www.vcsnj.info.

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