2007 – XV

Investigating the Mind:
Mindfulness, Compassion, and the Treatment of Depression

October 20, 2007 — Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Mind and Life XV at Emory University

In contemporary behavioral science, the general term “depression” covers a wide range of some of the most striking and prevalent forms of mental suffering in the world today. Within the broad spectrum of depression, some forms are relatively well understood. This meeting will build on that understanding to further examine the nature of depression and explore the possibility that some meditative practices may be helpful in its treatment or prevention.

The physiological, cognitive and affective features of depression may manifest in active states of depression, but they may also appear as traits that make one susceptible to depression. In terms of the physiology involved, recent research reveals that, in many cases, a complex interaction of genetics and the early life environment may make some people especially susceptible to depression. At the same time, studies of mindfulness-based interventions, including recent work on the mindful cultivation of compassion, suggest that these interventions may be associated with physiological changes that could be adapted as therapies for those who are especially susceptible.

Beyond the question of physiology, it is also clear that some cognitive and affective styles make one susceptible to depression, or even constitute many of its symptoms. Here as well, recent research suggests that some forms of cognitive therapy are critical to the successful treatment or prevention of depression. It also appears that the effectiveness of cognitive therapies can be enhanced by combining them with mindfulness-based techniques. Finally, the range of cognitive styles that serve to mitigate depression may also relate closely to a compassionate stance toward the world, and these styles may thus be reinforced by techniques for the deliberate cultivation of compassion.

Drawing on a wide range of expertise within both behavioral sciences and the Buddhist contemplative traditions, this dialogue seeks to understand depression in physiological and cognitive terms so as to explore the possibility that mindfulness based therapies, along with techniques to enhance compassion, may prove especially useful in the treatment of depression.

Conference speakers and panelists include:

Click here to download the complete conference program brochure in PDF format.