Evaluating Be Mindful
The effectiveness of Be Mindful, an online structured pathway of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was the subject of a highly significant research study by the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford and published in BMJ Open in 2013.
Adele Krusche, Eva Cyhlarova, and Mark Williams aimed to understand if an online mindfulness course could be just as effective as mindfulness courses delivered face-to-face, through investigating the feasibility and effectiveness of Be Mindful for perceived stress, anxiety and depression.
This investigation followed a previous preliminary evaluation of Be Mindful's impact on stress, published in BMJ Open in 2012, also by the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. The preliminary evaluation study reported very promising results, with an average reduction of 40% in stress for the 100 participants evaluated, leading to this secondary evaluation study introducing two more assessments to also measure Be Mindful's impact on anxiety and depression, and draw comparisons with face-to-face mindfulness interventions.
Be Mindful administers clinically recognised assessments at the start and end of the structured course, as well as at a one-month follow up, to successfully measure the effectiveness of the pathway. The use of clinical measurements widely used in UK primary care settings and the IAPT initiative, makes for an easy comparison with face-to-face mindfulness interventions and other therapies.
The reported mental health outcomes of the 273 participants evaluated in the study (those who completed the assessments at the start, end and at a one-month follow-up), were highly significant and comparable to mindfulness therapies delivered face-to-face, as well as other interventions, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The participants, on average, enjoyed reductions of 58% in anxiety, 40% in stress and 57% in depression.
Prior to this study there hadn't been any research examining changes in depression and anxiety in a non-clinical sample using an online mindfulness course based directly on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses. The three assessments administered through Be Mindful - the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) - had all been used in previous research and shown to have good reliability and validity, but GAD-7 and PHQ-9 had never been used to evaluate an online course.
Though the study was limited due to no control group for comparison, the results were identified as highly significant and it could not be denied that those who chose this method of mindfulness delivery found it helpful, with a reduction of stress, anxiety and depression at the end of the course and then a further reduction one-month later at follow-up, which also suggested continued use of skills learnt.
It was concluded that delivering MBCT online with Be Mindful was an acceptable mode of delivering mindfulness and appeared to decrease stress, anxiety and depression, comparable to mindfulness courses delivered in person, other online therapies, and IAPT interventions.
Reference: Krusche, Adele, Eva Cyhlarova, and J. Mark G. Williams. "Mindfulness online: an evaluation of the feasibility of a web-based mindfulness course for stress, anxiety and depression." BMJ open 3.11 (2013): e003498
Reference: Krusche, A., Cyhlarova, E., King, S., & Williams, J. M. G. (2012). Mindfulness online: a preliminary evaluation of the feasibility of a web-based mindfulness course and the impact on stress. BMJ open, 2(3), e000803