Ep. 77: Dr. Stuart Eisendrath — How to Improve Depression Treatment With Mindfulness Practice

My guest this week is psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Eisendrath, who specializes in mindfulness-based treatment of depression. We discussed his new book, When Antidepressants Aren’t Enough: Harnessing the Power of Mindfulness to Alleviate Depression (affiliate link), in which he describes the need for more effective depression treatments. Unfortunately millions of people find that medication alone fails to provide adequate relief from depression. In this episode you’ll hear Dr. Eisendrath describe the power of mindful awareness in the treatment of depression, and what led him and his team to adapt mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for the treatment of active depression.

There’s a lot to take from this conversation if you or someone you love is depressed and has struggled to find relief. For example, my guest explains what it means to develop a different relationship with our depression symptoms, and offers very helpful metaphors to illustrate mindful responses to depressing thoughts. Other topics we discussed included:

  • The results of the STAR*D depression treatment trial, showing that only about one-third of people with depression get adequate relief from medication alone
  • What it means to change one’s relationship with depression
  • The pioneering work of Zindel Segal and his colleagues in developing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)
  • What led Dr. Eisendrath and his team to modify MBCT to treat active depression
  • What major depression feels like
  • My guest’s own experience of depression
  • The downside of putting stories onto our pain, versus just observing and being with it
  • The formula of “Suffering = Pain x Resistance”
  • The fear of future suffering in depression
  • How to respond to thoughts like “I won’t be able to stand this”
  • Why mindfulness teachings often emphasize being more connected to our bodies
  • What “acceptance” means in mindfulness practice, and why it’s different from resignation
  • The effectiveness of different forms of mindfulness practice
  • The power of mindful walking
  • The importance of consistent practice in mindfulness
  • Examining thoughts mindfully
  • The effectiveness of simply noticing unhelpful thoughts, without generating alternative thoughts
  • Why our most compelling negative thoughts are the most likely to be false
  • How your mind is often not your friend when you’re depressed
  • Why your thoughts are often fake news
  • What decentering is and why it’s helpful

Click the link for Dr. Eisendrath’s free guided meditations.

To find mindfulness-based cognitive therapy near you, visit AccessMBCT.com.

Stuart Eisendrath, MD, is a senior clinician and research psychiatrist at the University of California-San Francisco, and founding director of the UCSF Depression Center.

Dr. Eisendrath’s lectures on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for University of California TV have been viewed more than 1.5 million times.

Visit him online at his website and on Facebook.

2 thoughts

  • I loved listening to Eisendrath. What I appreciate most was your question, Seth, asking for an explanation clarifying the difference between accepting the symptoms of depression and resigning to them. I have read numerous articles and listened to meditations about accepting depression and always think, “Why in the world would anyone want to accept it?”. I’m hoping with my new understanding, shifting focus from negative thoughts to physical sensations lessens the power of the thoughts, that I can more fully engage in the practice of mindfulness. Is this accurate?

    • I appreciate your comments and kind words, Colleen, and am glad it was helpful. Yes, I think that’s a great way to describe it. I’m sending you best wishes along the way.

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