Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not All MBSR Classes are Created Equal

For those of you unfamiliar with MBSR, it is a program that takes a systematic approach toward empowering participants to feel more connected and self aware.  The results of which assist people in dealing, much more effectively, with the emotional ups and downs that challenge us all, every day. The class incorporates gentle movement, (suitable for people with mobility issues) mindful meditation, group dialogue/feedback, home practice/homework, and an all day, mini-retreat that further enhances a persons ability to continue along with what they have learned long after the class has ended. The program provides people with a renewed sense of focus. The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where it was developed and launched by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. in 1979, has over 30 years of scientific research to demonstrate the effectiveness of MBSR. In a nutshell, it works!

All potential and existing teachers of MBSR take great care in preparing and training to instruct their classes. Many of the MBSR teachers are not certified. In fact,  the process of certification, as outlined and established at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society is quite long and time consuming, and can take 4 years or more to complete.   More importantly, before a teacher can even be considered for certification they must teach a total of at least 8, complete MBSR training programs,  as well as pursue a myriad of other requirements concerning further personal and professional development. A daunting task, but one that is totally necessary in order to maintain the integrity of both the program and the teacher.

It would seem given the abundance of MBSR classes springing up all over the entire world,  that the terms "mindfulness" and "MBSR" are in danger of commodification,  something that I am most acutely aware of as I move along my intended path toward certification.  As such, I take great pains to reassure all my new and potential MBSR students that I am not looking to use MBSR as a vehicle for anything other than simply wanting the program to be accessible to as many people who could benefit from it the most.  In turn, they can perhaps pass along, through their words or actions, a symbiotic sharing of the training called MBSR.

MBSR classes are not all equal. So please be sure when you are doing your homework looking for MBSR programs near you, that you look for people trained to instruct your class that have been taught at well respected and leading MBSR teacher training programs. The University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society is the uncontested leader in this field as it all started from the Stress Reduction Clinic in the basement of the hospital there, some 30 years a go, and now, worldwide over 750 programs exist. There are other excellent teacher training programs, such as at University of California in San Diego (UCSD )or in the UK, at Bangor University, just to name a few.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School recently informed a room full of 200 plus current and potential MBSR teachers that the only program that should use the name "MBSR" is those that follow the full, traditional 8-week format. He further clarified this by mentioning that some organizations have asked to use elements or abbreviated versions of the program, while wanting to call it MBSR, or have MBSR in the class title. Jon's response, in brief, "If it isn't MBSR, do not call it MBSR." He stated also that it is wonderful that so many people want to incorporate mindfulness or use aspects of MBSR into programs they too are developing. His request was to name it something more conducive to what it is that you are actually teaching, unless the program follows the traditional 8-week MBSR format.

Sadly, "let the buyer, or in this case the participant beware" as the potential consumerism of mindfulness exists, so one must exercise a bit of care when selecting an MBSR class. The good news is there are PLENTY of high quality trained, both certified and uncertified instructors, out there worldwide teaching wonderful classes. They do so in a well intentioned, and deep rooted awareness of what being an MBSR teacher is all about in the world today. The equally good news, there are an abundance of MBSR teachers and classes yet to come, as efforts are underway to incorporate this program into an ever growing number of schools, hospitals and businesses.


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