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What Do We Really Know About Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction?

Bishop, Scott R. PhD

Original Article

Objective Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a clinical program, developed to facilitate adaptation to medical illness, which provides systematic training in mindfulness meditation as a self-regulatory approach to stress reduction and emotion management. There has been widespread and growing use of this approach within medical settings in the last 20 years, and many claims have been made regarding its efficacy. This article will provide a critical evaluation of the available state of knowledge regarding MBSR and suggestions for future research.

Methods A review of the current literature available within the medical and social sciences was undertaken to provide an evaluation regarding what we know about the construct of mindfulness, the effectiveness of MBSR, and mechanisms of action.

Results There has been a paucity of research and what has been published has been rife with methodological problems. At present, we know very little about the effectiveness of this approach. However, there is some evidence that suggests that it may hold some promise.

Conclusions The available evidence does not support a strong endorsement of this approach at present. However, serious investigation is warranted and strongly recommended.

From Princess Margaret Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Address reprint requests to: Princess Margaret Hospital, 610 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G 2M9. Email:

Received for publication November 10, 2000; revision received April 24, 2001.

Copyright © 2002 by American Psychosomatic Society
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