Becoming an MBSR Teacher

February 24, 2021 by

By Cawood Fitzhugh, newly certified teacher

The training to become certified to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a rigorous and systematic process of courses, retreats and mentoring. All along the way, there is a focus on practice, reflection and self-knowledge. In addition, there is ongoing formative assessment and developmental feedback to support learning and skill development. MBSR is more than just teaching, it is a way of life.

The nature of teaching MBSR means that the teacher’s own meditation practice and the way they approach their life matters. This translates to the classroom and to their teaching. There is the possibility of having their way of being and their most cherished values and priorities align with their work and their personal lives in a way that makes a difference in the world.

The MBSR Teacher Training track at Brown University is a systematic, foundational process in which courses build upon one another. It was developed in collaboration with Jon Kabat-Zinn and usually takes about five years to complete, although it can be longer. Throughout the training process, there are formal programs interspersed with multiday silent retreats and other requirements. This moving back and forth between engaged formal group learning experiences and reflection allows for integration and deepened personal practice.

The first step of the training is to participate is the MBSR Foundations program. This is a deep dive into the underlying principles and origins of MBSR practices and themes, including contemplative methodology, experiential learning, the science of stress, stress psychology, the mechanisms of mindfulness, and the power of the group experience.

The next formal component is the Teacher Advancement Intensive.  This includes opportunities to teach and guide various elements of MBSR and to receive feedback from one’s self, peers and instructors. This is a lengthy course that is also performed as a group experience with the exploration of teaching, reflection and group evaluation.

After the successful completion of these two courses, along with other elective courses, the student is encouraged to teach a full 8-week MBSR course. After successful completion of these requirements and direct experience teaching, the individual’s name is added to the Brown Registry of qualified MBSR teachers.

To receive certification requires moving forward in the process with additional requirements and practices. Certification is highly regarded throughout the United States and now around the world.

The group and individual mentoring components that are woven into the educational process serve to enhance presence and specific teaching skills. After teaching at least six cycles of MBSR, completing several longer silent retreats and additional elective requirements, and with the recommendation of a 1:1 mentor, there is the opportunity to apply for certification.

The certification process is an occasion for applicants to review their own teaching through the use of class recordings and to reflect on and write about who they are as teachers. Each class is recorded and reviewed by the individual regarding the application of the underlying principles of MBSR. This particular process takes several months to complete.  A senior trainer then reviews the application and class films using a validated process. There is feedback given on each recording regarding strengths and learning possibilities. Only after this is certification awarded and one is listed as a Certified MBSR Teacher. This rigorous process provides consistency in teaching MBSR around the world.

The top priority of the Brown University Mindfulness Center is to provide teacher education and training that, as Jon Kabat Zinn -who developed the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course in 1979- stated, “can support the movement of the bell curve of humanity in the direction of greater health, wellbeing, and wisdom”.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ~ John Lennon

Filed Under: Monthly Musings