Elucidating the active ingredients of psychological treatments is an important step in the scientific validation of these interventions. Component studies are one way to test which aspects of psychological treatments impact outcomes or, in other words, are the active ingredients of treatment. As research and popular interest in mindfulness-based programs grows, it is important to evaluate the active ingredients of these programs and to continually refine theorized models of the mechanisms of mindfulness. Studying active ingredients may help clarify which elements of mindfulness-based programs are most important for dissemination.
We conducted a systematic review of component studies of mindfulness-based programs for adults with psychological conditions. PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews were followed.
Eight component studies were identified. These studies dismantled mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, unified mindfulness, and core mindfulness processes. The eight studies differed with respect to types of programs and populations studied, yet similarities emerged. Notably, acceptance coupled with awareness and mindfulness meditation training may be two promising active ingredients of these different programs.
Future studies examining mindfulness-based programs should continue to attempt to dismantle active ingredients of treatment and use the findings to update theoretical models of mindfulness.