When it comes to managing the symptoms of anxiety, Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered an extremely effective treatment. CBT primarily focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, then building healthier habits to deal with these patterns. While CBT on its own is an amazing treatment, in this blog post we will discuss how alternative therapies can aid or enhance the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety.

Alternative therapies like mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), yoga, and meditation can potentially be paired with CBT to help manage symptoms of anxiety. Each of these therapies can help teach you how to regulate emotions, relax, and promote self-awareness. 

It is important to note that any changes to an existing treatment plan should be done in consultation with a qualified healthcare professional. In addition, alternative therapies should not be used as a total replacement for evidence-based treatment. An ideal mental healthcare professional will understand how to bridge alternative and evidence-based therapy to provide the best treatment for you. 

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a Complementary Approach

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a structured program that combines mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to promote mindfulness – the practice of being fully present in the moment without judgment. MBSR was originally developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditator and yogi,  in 1979 as a way to help individuals manage stress, chronic pain, and other health conditions.

The proven usefulness of MBSR is shown in the numerous studies supporting the use of it for managing anxiety as well as testimonials from individuals who have integrated mindfulness into their cognitive-behavioral therapy treatment. 

One of the key things mindfulness promotes is self-awareness–individuals become more aware of their emotions, thoughts, and body without judgment. This increased awareness allows individuals to recognize their triggers and negative-thinking patterns. 

Increased self-awareness also leads to improved emotional regulation and cognitive flexibility. By developing the ability to understand one’s emotions, the natural step is to observe without negative thoughts and understand how to react in a more balanced way. This shift in perspective is known as cognitive flexibility. These techniques can then support cognitive restructuring techniques used in CBT.

So what are some concrete practical mindfulness tips one can incorporate with cognitive-behavioral therapy? Body scans, breathing techniques, and mindful eating are just a few among many. These techniques can be practiced during CBT sessions or as homework assignments and can help individuals cultivate a mindful mindset throughout their daily lives. 

Yoga and Meditation as an Adjunct to CBT

There are two mindfulness-related activities one can incorporate into therapy: Yoga and meditation. Yoga, an ancient practice that originated in India that combines various disciplines such as physical movement, breathwork, spirituality, and mindfulness, and meditation, a practice that involves cultivating mindfulness and mental focus, can both be used as an adjunct to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for managing anxiety.

Research has shown that yoga has numerous benefits for anxiety. Regular yoga practice has been found to reduce stress, improve physical health, and enhance mental well-being. Yoga has also been shown to increase relaxation, promote body awareness, and encourage self-care, which can support the goals of CBT in managing anxiety symptoms.

The physical movement and breathwork involved in yoga can help activate the relaxation response in the body, reducing stress and anxiety. Yoga poses, sequences, and breathing exercises can help individuals release physical tension and cultivate a sense of calm.

By practicing yoga, individuals can develop a deeper connection with the physical aspects of their bodies and become more attuned to bodily sensations, learning how to release tension and stress stored in the body. 

In the same vein, meditation involves many of the same core mindfulness aspects of yoga, though the focus is less on developing a physical connection with the body. Instead, it aims at mental focus and clarity. There are different forms of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and body scan meditation, each with its own unique benefits that can complement CBT techniques.

Practical tips for incorporating meditation into CBT include starting with short meditation sessions to build a regular practice gradually, using guided meditation apps or resources to assist in the process, and integrating meditation into daily routines, such as before bedtime or during breaks. 


If you are interested in exploring the benefits of mindfulness-based therapy, especially as an addition to existing cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s important to explore this option with a trusted healthcare professional with experience in the subject. As a CBT therapist that practices mindfulness, I am committed to creating a warm and welcoming environment for people interested in exploring non-traditional forms of therapy. 20-minute consultations are available so we can see if I am the right therapist for you.  

Go Mindful Counseling

Go Mindful Counseling offers compassionate and effective phone therapy and online therapy for anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, stress, insomnia, and addictive behaviors (see the website for the full list of treatment options).  We provide cognitive behavioral therapy through in-person sessions, online video conferencing, and phone. Click below to schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

Margie Ahern
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