Information for people thinking about booking on the course
This course is suitable for anyone who has suffered depression or anxiety, or are living with physical pain. It is not suitable for people who are currently clinically depressed. It is designed to help people develop practical skills that can help them stay well and be part of their strategy to prevent future relapse into low moods.
Please be aware the course facilitators are meditation teachers and not therapists. You may wish to discuss your choice to attend this course with medical or social work professionals with whom you are already in contact. If in any doubt we recommend you talk to your GP.
At the commencement of the course you will be given the opportunity to ask questions about the course or your own particular situation to ensure the course is suitable for you. This may take place during the first session of the course or by individual contact over the phone before the course starts. If, for any reason you, or we, feel the course is unsuitable at this time for you, a full refund of the course fee will be made.
The following notes are designed to help you get a sense of the approach that the course will take. Please read them carefully if you are intending to book on it.
Depression is a very common problem – 20% of adults become severely depressed at some point in their lives. Depression involves both biological changes in the way the brain works and psychological changes – the way we think and feel. Because of this, it is often useful to combine medical treatments for treating depression (which act on the brain) with psychological approaches (which teach new ways to deal with thoughts and feelings).
Treatment of Depression
If you have been depressed in the past your doctor may have prescribed antidepressants. These work through their effects on the chemical messengers in your brain. In depression these chemical messengers have often become run down, lowering mood and energy levels, disturbing sleep and appetite. Correcting these brain chemicals may have taken time, but most people experience improvements in 6-8 weeks.
Although antidepressants generally work well in reducing depression, they may not be a permanent cure – their effects continue only so long as you keep taking the pills. Your doctor could continue to prescribe antidepressants for months or even years. However, many people prefer to use other or additional ways to prevent further depression. This is the purpose of the course you are inquiring about.
Please note that it is important to consult your doctor before making any changes to prescribed medication.
Prevention of Further Depression
Whatever caused your depression in the first place, the experience of depression itself has a number of after-effects. One of these is the possibility that you may become depressed again. The purpose of the course is to improve your chance of preventing further depression by learning skills to help you handle your thoughts and feelings differently.
You will learn these skills in a class with others who may also have been depressed (there will be a team of two facilitators). The classes will meet to learn new ways of dealing with what goes on in our minds, and to share and review experiences with other class members.
The Importance of Practice
Together we will be working to change patterns of mind that often have been around for a long time. These patterns may have become a habit. We can only expect to succeed in making changes if we put time and effort into learning and practising skills.
There will therefore be a small amount of home practice for you to do between class meetings. This practice will take up to an hour a day, six days a week for each week of the course and involves tasks such as listening to CDs, performing brief exercises, and so on. We appreciate that it is often very difficult to find that amount of time for something new in lives that may be already very busy and crowded. However, the commitment to spend time on home practice is an important part of the class if you wish to gain the maximum benefits from the course.
The classes and the home assignments can teach you how to be more fully aware and present in each moment of life. The good news is that this makes life more interesting, vivid and fulfilling. On the other hand, this means facing what is present, even when it is unpleasant and difficult. In practice you will find that turning to face and acknowledge difficulties is the most effective way, in the long run, to reduce unhappiness. It is also central to preventing further depression. Seeing unpleasant feelings, thoughts, or experiences clearly, as they arise, means that you will be in much better shape to ‘nip them in the bud’, before they progress to more intense or persistent depressions. In the classes you will learn gentle ways to face difficulties, and will be supported by the facilitators and other class members.
Patience and Persistence
Because we will be working to change well established habits of mind, you will be putting in a lot of time and effort. The effects of this effort may only become apparent later. In many ways, it is like gardening – we have to prepare the ground, plant the seeds, ensure that they are adequately watered and nourished, and then wait patiently for results.
You may be familiar with this pattern from any treatment with antidepressants. Often, there is little beneficial effect until you have been taking medication for some time. Yet improvement in your depression depended on your continuing to take the antidepressant even when you felt no immediate benefit.
In the same way, we ask you to approach the classes in this course and the home practice with a spirit of patience and persistence, committing yourself to putting in time and effort into the course, while accepting that the fruits of your efforts may not show straight away.