Mindfulness in Counseling: A Literature Review

The research of mindfulness-based interventions has been exhibited in the popular literature both from the quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The analysis includes peer-reviewed articles published within the last ten years to satisfy the relevance criteria.. According to the reviewed literature. A large body of empirical data backs the efficacy of mindfulness-based psychotherapy has typically generated favorable benefits for persons in treatment. However, because this is a novel therapeutic option, the long-term advantages of this technique may not yet be completely understood. A growing amount of empirical data backs the method, although a further study on its efficacy in treating bipolar disorder, eating disorders, psychosis, and other illnesses is needed. The questionnaires and case-by-case interviews reviewed in this assignment contribute to the understanding of the overall state of research within the field. The most frequent limitations include insufficient research samples, lack of discretion on behalf of the participants, and difficulty to separate the effects of mindfulness from other contributing variables.

Research of Mindfulness in Counseling: A Literature Review

The word “mindfulness” is generally applied to a cognitive sense of consciousness, methods that foster this awareness, a way of information processing, and a personality attribute. This review defines mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment, which is consistent with most of the studies discussed in this article. Mindfulness is a state, not a trait, in this sense, and can therefore be maintained or interrupted depending on circumstances or will. While some techniques or activities, such as meditation, may foster it, it is not the same as or identical to them. Unsurprisingly, this concept has significantly impacted the modern counseling practice from the perspective of both counselors and patients. This literature review examines the application of mindfulness principles to the contemporary counseling practice and its effects on the parties involved.


The background information for this topic can be generally traced to the definition, origins, and practices of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a style of psychotherapy that merges cognitive therapy, meditation, and the cultivation of mindfulness in the sense of a non-judgmental attitude already discussed in the introduction. Therapists Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale created MBCT in order to improve cognitive therapy. They believed that by combining cognitive therapy with Jon Kabat-mindfulness-based Zinn’s stress reduction (MBSR) method, treatment might be more successful.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy improves on the ideas of cognitive therapy by teaching individuals to deliberately pay attention to their thoughts and feelings without passing judgment on them, utilizing techniques such as mindfulness meditation. As part of the MBCT program, a variety of mindfulness methods and exercises are used. These include, but are not limited to, meditation, body scan exercise, mindfulness practices, stretching, and, occasionally, yoga. The evident ambiguity of most of these practices and tools has contributed to the inconsistencies and lack of focus in some of the research papers on the subject, which will be addressed later in the paper.

These common MCBT elements are generally perceived as effective for the participating clients if carried out correctly by the therapists. Mindfulness can be developed through a variety of disciplines and practices, including yoga, tai chi, and qigong, but the majority of research has focused on mindfulness developed through meditation and mindfulness practices — those self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in an effort to force mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster overall cognitive wellbeing and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity, and concentration.

Problem Statement

MBCT has been shown to be successful in treating those who have had numerous bouts of depression, according to research. While it was created to treat depression, it has also been proved to be useful for bipolar illness, anxiety disorder, and clinical depression. Despite this, research on the effectiveness of MCBT in the treatment of active or severe depression is currently underway. The relatively hazy methods used in MBCT sessions add to the risk of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

As a result, it is critical to look over the available peer-reviewed literature on the subject in order to assess the quality of the conducted quantitative and qualitative research. The MBCT has appeared to be tested on variety of demographics, with relatively variable results. Similarly, the book Readme first for a user’s guide to qualitative methods (Richards & Morse, 2013) discusses how different tools are capable of bringing the true potential out of different research topics. When combined, these guides on the details and the intricacies of psychological research allow the reader to better comprehend most of the articles within the field.

Literature Review

The existing literature on the designs and limitations of research into mindfulness explores the topic in the contexts of different demographics and patient histories. Most of the issues remain consistent, however, highlighting shared limitations and advantages, as well as ethical considerations. The textbook Research in Psychology: Methods and Design by Kerri and James Goodwin has the most general and summing description of the research on the issue (2020). It serves as a textbook by providing a comprehensive and broad summary of current psychological research. It guarantees that a complete description of the current status of research in the field is available, touching on hot topics, contemporary ethics, and organizational problems. Similarly, Richards and Morse (2013) highlight how different techniques may bring out the actual potential of various research subjects in their book Read me first for a user’s guide to qualitative approaches. When these recommendations on the complexities and intricacies of psychological research are integrated, the reader may better understand the majority of publications in the subject.

Mindfulness in Clients

It is common for mindfulness-related practices in clients to be associated with meditation and self-centering. Bergen-Cico and Cheon (2013) linked meditation to enhanced mental health; yet, little is understood about how these favorable consequences evolve. This study aims to investigate the possible mediating effects of frequently assessed conceptions of mindfulness and self-compassion on trait anxiety, a personality characteristic widespread in many psychiatric illnesses, in order to better understand the operant effects of meditation on mental health. The key strengths of the paper rely on the consistent use of statistical models that account for group variance and longevity over which the study took place. Weaknesses and limitations, as is usual within the field, concern its inherent subjectivity and potential ethical issues associated with personal subject matters of mental health recovery.

The next study took a look at the controlled and non-controlled mindfulness, and the difference that it projected on clients involved. Crane et al. (2014) designed a multi-centre randomized controlled experiment, ninety-nine individuals were randomly assigned to MBCT and completed self-reported assessments of home practice over the course of seven treatment weeks. Major Depression recurrence was measured immediately after therapy and at various time intervals thereafter. The findings revealed a significant link between mean daily duration of formal home practice and outcome, as well as the fact that participants who reported doing formal home practice on at least 3 days per week during the treatment phase were nearly half as likely to relapse as those who reported fewer days. The current study found no link between informal home practice and result, which has crucial implications for physicians talking to their patients about mindfulness-based therapies. Limitations concern the emotional vulnerability of subjects, who are likely to be more susceptible to implicit outside pressures and leading questions.

The effects of mindfulness in individual treatment have received little investigation. Empirical data is of significant therapeutic value since many practitioners include mindfulness activities in individual treatment. In a randomized, controlled approach, the researchers looked at the effects of a session-introducing intervention with mindfulness features (Mander et al., 2018). It was compared to progressive muscle relaxation and treatment-as-usual control circumstances in terms of therapeutic alliance and symptomatic result. A total of 162 participants with anxiety and depression were included in the study. The collected data was then subjected to multi-level modeling, which revealed that mindfulness had no statistically significant effects on the results of CBT in the cases of depression and anxiety. The findings, however, are largely limited by potential bias within a comparatively small sample.

Mindfulness in Counselors

The introduction of mindfulness angle to a session has the potential to alter both its general course and the long-standing effects. Dunn et al. (2013) examined if introducing a mindfulness centering exercise 5 minutes before a session may improve treatment, specifically therapists’ capacity to be present in session and session results. The findings showed that therapists perceived themselves to be more present in session when they prepared for their sessions by doing mindfulness centering exercises, while clients perceived their therapists to be highly present regardless of whether their therapist completed the mindfulness centering exercise. Clients, on the other hand, thought the sessions were more helpful when their therapists conducted the mindfulness centering exercise before they started. The potential bias in the respondents’ perspectives was accounted for by taking note of their ethnic backgrounds, thus strengthening the reliability and validity of the results. Potential limitations focus on participants’ awareness of the purpose of their assignment.

In their research, Bihari and Mullan (2014) examine the effects of the long-term MBCT on depressed patients and their relationships. Individual-level transformation processes, such as de-centering or connecting less with thoughts, have been observed thus far. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that interpersonal processes play a key role in persistent depression and that mindfulness practice is linked to more meaningful interpersonal connections. Through the use of qualitative research, especially theoretical sampling of participants’ interview data using grounded theory, this study evaluated participants’ experiences with MBCT and their interactions with others in depth. “Relating thoughtfully” emerged as the central concept from the participants’ accounts. The findings, which are described in diagrammatic style, indicate the interdependence of individual and interpersonal changes as a result of MBCT. The study, however, is limited by the strict ethical regulations related to a sensitive subject matter.

In 2020 Mike Pearson discussed the processes behind and the results of a certain mindfulness challenge. The author is interested in the continuous challenges of practice and bringing the practice to clients after multiple years of academic research. She has been teaching mindfulness to postgraduate students for over seven years. The positive influence of mindfulness practice on therapeutic presence warrants mindfulness programs within counselor education since a counselor’s personal growth is critical to therapy results. This qualitative study used theme analysis to analyze written reports from 53 postgraduate counseling interns who took part in a pilot mindfulness challenge for eight weeks. According to intern reports, mindfulness was difficult to acquire but could be explored through a variety of activities, and for the most part, the practice led to increased self-awareness. Limitations concern the questionable reliability of some of the sources utilized for the theoretical basis.

The paper by Bu and Pare (2018) uses hermeneutic phenomenology to investigate the experience of four counselors who used mindfulness to cultivate acceptance in their therapeutic work with clients. The findings are organized into four topics that show counselors’ acceptance practices: identifying, allowing, attention to the physical, experiencing the self, and welcoming clients. Accepting clients, according to the research, is an intrapersonal process of accepting our clients’ experiences—a skill acquired through the development of specific attributes and attitudes. Potential limitations focus on the dependability of the outcome on qualifications and personal characteristics of individual counselors. The findings have implications for counselor training and emphasize the necessity of therapist self-cultivation.

The study’s retrospective character offered some weaknesses in the exploration of the research topic. Because it would be difficult to watch the processes being researched live in session, the narratives of those activities were derived from research interviews conducted after the event, creating a limitation. This problem, which frequently occurs in interview-based research, leads to a reliance on a retrospective account rather than real-time observation of the fundamental process of interest. Furthermore, conducting interviews through Skype was inefficient and had a number of difficulties, one of which was the inability to detect subtle differences in body language.

The next paper uses qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with eight mental health professionals selected to distinguish the many impacts of relational mindfulness within the psychotherapy environment. The therapeutic alliance was shown to be influenced by the therapist’s perspective, method, presence, and therapeutic alliance. These issues are examined via a psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioral lens (Konichezky et al., 2021). It utilizes the key advantages of qualitative studies, such as the attention on a case-by-case basis and open-ended well thought out questions. Similarly, an argument can be made, pointing out the potential lack of quantitative methodology that undermines the full potential of the topic.

In 2021, McCabe and Day systemized and examined counselors’ experiences in incorporating mindfulness into depression treatment and anxiety in their clients. Five counselors took part in semi-structured interviews, which were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis to determine how participants experienced and perceived mindfulness in counseling. The results of the study revealed six themes: the advantages of mindfulness for clients, the client’s participation in mindfulness’s success, the integrity of practice, employing mindfulness in treatment, mindfulness practices, and a mindfulness practitioner’s responsibilities. These and related secondary themes are described, along with an examination of the findings in reference to the literature.

As such, the study provides a detailed and multidimensional overview of the perspectives and experiences of clients and therapists alike. It is safe to assume that relevant ethic procedures were followed in preparation to the interviews, including the appropriate data protection protocols for the participants. The analysis utilizes diagrams and other graphic tools to effectively present the findings of different interviews and potential relationship between them, if any. It takes advantage of the open-ended structure of the interview questions that facilitate the introduction of the unique perspective of each person involved.

Pre-cession centering effects on the effectiveness and overall results of the session were also analyzed, taking advantage of examining more controlled and predictable environments than the sessions themselves. The goal of the Dunn et al. study (2013) was to see if doing mindfulness centering exercises 5 minutes before a session may improve therapy, specifically therapists’ capacity to stay present in sessions and session results. When therapists prepared for their sessions by doing mindfulness centering exercises (d=45), the results showed that they felt more present in the session. Clients, on the other hand, thought their therapists were very present, regardless of whether they did the mindfulness centering practice.

Although the design allowed them to conduct a comparison between conditions within the same therapists rather than between therapist conditions, they were unable to be certain that therapists had an even distribution of sessions across conditions because randomization occurred at the session level. To put it another way, it’s possible that a certain therapist had more sessions randomized to one of the conditions than the other. Given the randomization procedure, however, this is unlikely, as it is nearly impossible to manipulate. The study is likely to be limited by the adherence to the current data protection regulations.

The previous study has linked mindfulness training to reduced stress and improvements in therapy-relevant qualities, including empathy among health workers. The Hopkins & Proeve (2013) study looked at clinical psychology trainees’ experiences with mindfulness training and how it affected their stress and growth as psychologists. The mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program, which lasted eight weeks, was completed by eleven trainee clinical psychologists. Semi-structured interviews and self-report measures of perceived stress, empathy, and mindfulness were used to conduct assessments before too and after training, as well as after two months. Four higher-level themes emerged from the study of interview transcripts: difficult experience, altered stress experience, altered therapeutic experience, and extended understanding. The results indicate a positive impact of mindfulness techniques on empathy in counsellors but are limited by the relatively small sample numbers.

Although there are a variety of personal advantages for psychotherapists who practice mindfulness, evidence on the influence of psychotherapist mindfulness on client treatment results is equivocal. The goal of the study was to see if a brief mindfulness training program for trainee psychotherapists might improve their assessments of their own state and trait mindfulness, as well as the results of psychotherapy sessions (Swift et al., 2017). Forty graduate student psychotherapists from two institutions were randomly allocated to either a mindfulness or a control group in this randomized-controlled crossover experiment. Psychotherapists in the mindfulness group were given a 5-week manualized mindfulness training program, while those in the control group were given the program after a 5-week period of no interaction. The increases in state and trait mindfulness found in the mindfulness training group were considerably bigger than the changes seen in the control group. Potential limitations focus on the participants’ almost guaranteed awareness regarding being a part of the experiment.

There has been a growing interest in self-compassion as a related and complementary construct to mindfulness during the last decade. Increases in self-compassion may predict clinical outcomes following MBCT, while CFT emphasizes cultivating compassion for oneself and others. The impact of MBCT using implicit self-compassion instructions vs. CFT using explicit self-compassion instructions on symptom improvement, mindfulness, self-compassion, and rumination was examined in this pilot research (Frostadottir & Dorjee, 2019). There were substantial improvements in mindfulness and self-compassion, as well as reductions in rumination, sadness, anxiety, and stress, as a result of the therapies, although limited by potential bias in the socially relevant variables. Furthermore, MBCT improved mindfulness for persons who had a high level of rumination at the start, whereas CFT improved mindfulness for everyone.


Qualitative investigations, theories, and accounts of good service user experience have all contributed to psychological knowledge of recovery for decades. More recently, rigorous scientific procedures have been employed to verify mindfulness-based psychological therapies (such as MCBT), utilizing the most widely used approach for evaluating the efficacy of treatments in medicine: the RCT. Because of the effectiveness of six RCT trials, authoritative standard-setting authorities such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom now recommend MCBT for the prevention of depression and anxiety disorder recurrence.


Current research largely proves the benefits that MCBT can provide for patients struggling with anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depressive disorder. However, it is evident that the research process itself is complicated by multiple factors. The factors include a degree of vagueness in MCBT principles and their implementation in the counselor practice, lack of opportunity to recruit unaware audiences, and necessity for the combination and quantitative and qualitative analysis in most cases.

Ideas for Future Research

It could be worth researching more about the role MCBT may play in dealing with other mental and psychological disorders at various stages. Conditions such as PTSD can be examined through the lens of mindfulness practices, provided the fully informed and consenting sample is available. Such research, admittedly, can be severely complicated by the underlying ethic controversies and concerns, as well as logistic difficulties. The validity and reliability of studies themselves often remain to be desired, and, thus, new research methodologies might be applied as well.


The effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is backed by a large body of empirical data, and it has typically generated favorable benefits for persons in treatment, according to the study. However, because this is a novel therapeutic option, the long-term advantages of this technique may not yet be completely understood. The existing research on the topic is rich and rather detailed but not very consistent. This element is to be expected given the degree to which MBCT practices and their implications depend on individual cases of different customers. Nevertheless, it is worth it for researchers to consider the unpredictability of this topic when initiating a project related to it.


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Bu, S., & ParĂ©, D. A. (2018). A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Exploration of Counsellors’ Practice of Mindful Acceptance. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 52(2). Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Mindfulness in Counseling: A Literature Review." September 18, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/mindfulness-in-counseling-a-literature-review/.