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How to Become an MBSR Teacher

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Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness (CFM) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1979. MBSR consists of an eight-week program that teaches people how to cope and respond to stress, illness and pain using meditation and other mindfulness techniques. Becoming an MBSR teacher requires years of dedication to the study and practice of mindfulness and how meditation and other techniques can improve your life.

Preparation and Foundational Training

Learn mindfulness meditation from an instructor and participate in silent, teacher-led retreats. You can do this by attending a retreat center program that emphasizes Theravadan Buddhist teachings, since MBSR reflects this learning style and tradition. Other disciplines and teachings that incorporate several days of silence, interaction with a meditation teacher and a meditation style that emphasizes spaciousness and introspection may also be good preparation to become an MBSR teacher. Practice mindfulness meditation daily and commit to an ongoing participation in meditation retreats.

Learn some form of bodywork training that incorporates mindfulness and practice it regularly. The Center for Mindfulness recommends training in hatha yoga or some other body-centered awareness practice. For Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, it's important to recognize the importance of the body as a vehicle for mindfulness. Body-centered awareness practices, such as hatha yoga, are oriented in self-understanding, wisdom and liberation.

Make a commitment to learning as much about your personality as possible and the ways you relate to others. You can achieve this type of awareness through periods of self-inquiry, ongoing participation in meditation practices and other activities in which you take an introspective look at your inner self. Your knowledge of self gives you an understanding from which you can draw when you begin teaching MBSR and facing the suffering, uncertainties and questions of others.

Study and participate in one or both of the Center for Mindfulness' Oasis foundational training programs. Two Oasis foundational programs exist, as of 2011: the seven-day "MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine" program and the eight-week seminar or nine-day intensive MBSR practicum. Senior teachers from the Center for Mindfulness lead these programs, which are held at various times throughout the year in Massachusetts, New York and California. After you complete one of these foundational programs, you can begin teaching MBSR to others.

Advanced Training

Pursue graduate training in a field that's connected to MBSR if you wish to achieve certification as an MBSR teacher from the Center for Mindfulness. The Center for Mindfuless recommends pursuing graduate training in psychology, education, medicine or similar fields that foster learning of the mind and body. These types of fields give you an understanding of the scientific, educational and medical roots of MBSR.

Continue your engagement in individual professional development activities while you train others in MBSR. For example, practice mindfulness meditation daily and hatha yoga or another body-centered awareness practice on a regular basis. Continue to develop your inner self, gain understanding of your personal psychology development and integrate mindfulness into your everyday life.

Participate in the Center for Mindfulness' Teacher Development Intensive, an eight-day, residential training program. The program consists of advanced training in MBSR techniques, group dynamics and curricula development. Its goal is to help you refine your teaching skills as an MBSR teacher.

Complete the CFM's supervision component for advanced training in MBSR. The supervision program involves personal, one-on-one instruction and support from a CFM senior instructor. During the supervision program, you'll meet in-person or over the phone to discuss questions and concerns and receive feedback concerning your teaching and presentation of MBSR.

Apply to the Center for Mindfulness for certification review to become certified as an MBSR teacher. To apply for certification, you must type up a resume and cover letter, and organize a portfolio that includes video recordings of yourself leading a class in meditation practice, instructional materials you've developed, evaluations from your students and letters of recommendations. After you send all application materials to the Center for Mindfulness, senior teachers and MBSR teachers will review of your portfolio to determine whether you have met the qualifications for certification.

About the Author

Matthew Schieltz has been a freelance web writer since August 2006, and has experience writing a variety of informational articles, how-to guides, website and e-book content for organizations such as Demand Studios. Schieltz holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He plans to pursue graduate school in clinical psychology.

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