Teacher Training Improves the Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Ultimately, it is the depth of your own personal commitment to learning, growing and healing – as well as a dedication to the well-being of others – that will contribute most to your integrity and effectiveness as a teacher.” ~Center for Mindfulness, UMass Medical Center
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn). It has been shown to be highly related to the health and well-being of the individual. Mindfulness training has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, mindfulness training has been called the third wave of therapies. In fact, though, little is known about the components that maximize the effectiveness of mindfulness training.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a classic mindfulness training that combines meditation, yoga, and body scan meditation practices. In most cases MBSR is conducted by a certified trained therapist. But, recently, it has been shown to be effective when presented on-line without the presence of an instructor. When MBSR is taught live by a certified instructor is costly and many clients can’t afford it. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules or at locations that may not be convenient. But many believe that that the interpersonal interactions, compassion, understanding, and modelling provided by a teacher is crucial for MBSR effectiveness. So, it is unclear whether the presence of an instructor produces benefits that balance or exceed the added costs.
In today’s Research News article “Impact of Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training on MBSR Participant Well-Being Outcomes and Course Satisfaction.” (See summary below). Ruijgrok-Lupton and colleagues examined whether the amount of training that MBSR instructors have received is associated with improved outcomes. They recruited Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certified instructors who varied in the amount of training either Basic Teacher Training (Level 1), Advanced Teacher Training (Level 2) or Advanced Teacher Training with Continuing Professional Development (Level 3). They then recruited participants who were attending one of the instructors’ 8-week MBSR classes. They measured the participants before and after the class for mindfulness, self-compassion, well-being, perceived stress, and teacher satisfaction including impact on daily life and teacher support.
There were too few teachers in the Level 1 group (n=2), so comparisons were restricted to the Level 2 and Level 3 groups. They found that overall the participants in the MBSR classes not surprisingly showed significant gains in mindfulness and reductions in perceived stress. Importantly, they also found that the participants in the MBSR classes taught by Level 3 teachers had significantly greater gains in well-being and significantly greater reductions in perceived stress than those taught by Level 2 teachers. In addition, the participants in the MBSR classes taught by Level 3 teachers indicated significantly greater satisfaction with their teachers than those taught by Level 2 teachers.
The findings suggest that MBSR teachers with advanced teacher training plus continuing professional development produce better results than teachers with advanced teacher training only. The lack of a sufficient number of teachers with only basic teacher training was disappointing since this greatly restricted the range of teacher training levels. But, the fact that only adding continuing professional development to advanced teacher training had significant effects is striking. After all, both groups are highly professionally trained. These results, then, clearly suggest that the greater the training, even of highly trained teachers, of the MBSR teachers the greater their effectiveness. Future research should include more basic level instructors and an on-line comparison condition.
But, it’s clear that teacher training improves the effectiveness of mindfulness training.
“The teaching of mindfulness is never a matter of merely teaching or operationalizing techniques. Mindfulness is a way of being in a wiser relationship to one’s experience, not one particular mental state to be pursued and attained. Thus, the non-instrumental dimensionality of the work and of the practice of mindfulness is the foundation of effective practice and teaching.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Ruijgrok-Lupton, P.E., Crane, R.S. & Dorjee, D. Impact of Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training on MBSR Participant Well-Being Outcomes and Course Satisfaction. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0750-x
Growing interest in mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) has resulted in increased demand for MBP teachers, raising questions around safeguarding teaching standards. Training literature emphasises the need for appropriate training and meditation experience, yet studies into impact of such variables on participant outcomes are scarce, requiring further investigation. This feasibility pilot study hypothesised that participant outcomes would relate to teachers’ mindfulness-based teacher training levels and mindfulness-based teaching and meditation experience. Teachers (n = 9) with different MBP training levels delivering mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses to the general public were recruited together with their course participants (n = 31). A teacher survey collected data on their mindfulness-based teacher training, other professional training and relevant experience. Longitudinal evaluations using online questionnaires measured participant mindfulness and well-being before and after MBSR and participant course satisfaction. Course attendees’ gains after the MBSR courses were correlated with teacher training and experience. Gains in well-being and reductions in perceived stress were significantly larger for the participant cohort taught by teachers who had completed an additional year of mindfulness-based teacher training and assessment. No correlation was found between course participants’ outcomes and their teacher’s mindfulness-based teaching and meditation experience. Our results support the hypothesis that higher mindfulness-based teacher training levels are possibly linked to more positive participant outcomes, with implications for training in MBPs. These initial findings highlight the need for further research on mindfulness-based teacher training and course participant outcomes with larger participant samples.