Further Education Programme in MBSR-MBCT Teacher Training - VNÆR2

Short description

Gjøvik University College and the Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches have collaborated on the development of a further education program in MBSR-MBCT teacher training.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was founded in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at the Stress Reduction Clinic of the University of Massachusetts, Department of Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, in Worcester, Mass. U.S.A. MBSR has been successfully implemented in hundreds of hospitals, clinics, health centers, educational, management and other settings around the world. In Europe the program has been taught successfully since the early 1990s and interest has continued to grow steadily. A significant number of scientific studies underline the effectiveness of the MBSR program. The studies document impressively that a high percentage of course participants experience one or more of the following results:

  • decrease of physical and psychosomatic symptoms
  • being able to cope more effectively with stressful situations
  • increased capacity to relax
  • a growing self-confidence and capacity for self-acceptance
  • increased vitality 

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was created by Professors John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Mark Williams. They adapted elements of MBSR and combined them with elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to develop a program to prevent relapse of depression. 
The U.K. National Institute of Clinical Excellence has endorsed MBCT as an “effective treatment for prevention of relapse.” MBCT has now been recommended for use within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for the prevention of recurrent depression since 2004.

The training program is highly structured, at the same time encouraging personal creativity and expression. The multidisciplinary team is committed to each
participant finding his/her own identity as a teacher. The training invites each participant to practice and integrate mindfulness skills in their own daily lives
before passing them on to others.
This program is challenging and asks for commitment: to one’s own practice as well
as to completing the requirements. Our faculty take the position that we cannot ask someone else to do what we have not done ourselves. Thus trainees in the program
are asked to do the same work and homework as participants in mindfulness-based courses.
Some students who join our programs have already been teaching mindfulness- based approaches for some time. They join, they tell us, because they want to immerse themselves in a systematic, in-depth training, to profit from the faculty’s extensive experience, and to bring together the strands of techniques and methods they have gathered over time in an integrated and thorough way.

Students learn and practice the main formal exercises of the MBSR/MBCT programs (body scan, mindful bodywork based on gentle yoga, sitting meditation and walking meditation), as well as learning how to teach these exercises to others. The training program emphasizes the deepening of one’s own meditation practice as the basis for teaching others. The curriculums of both the eight-week MBSR and MBCT courses are examined in detail and elements of the weekly sessions are taught within the training program.

A valuable resource of the program is the collegial network opportunities that develop through participation in training. The students start the program and finish it together. This training structure allows for intensive collaboration between students as well as with the faculty. The requirement that students already have an established mindfulness practice before entering the program ensures a high level and in-depth exploration of mindfulness, its practice and applications. Students teach their own self-organized eight-week MBSR course during the third semester of the training program. Students must participate in a minimum of six, 50-minute, individual, telephone sessions with a mentor during the time they teach their own eight-week course.
Students write and create their own Audios for each of the main exercises (Body Scan, Mindful Yoga and Sitting Meditation). These exercises will be covered extensively in the training program. Students receive an extensive MBSR teacher-handbook in English.

A sample handbook for an MBSR eight-week course participants in Norwegian
and/or English is available in digital format to modify and adapt for one’s own
courses. Additional hand-out
material will be provided by the IMA.
The program is based on a highly interactive, collaborative and participatory educational philosophy and practice. The intention is to create a group process that feels safe and trustworthy as well as an open and spacious learning environment that encourages spontaneity and creativity.


The program is structured as part-time over three semesters with an expected study effort of approximately 13 hours per week. It is assumed that students are practicing mindfulness at least six days a week during the study period. It is recommended that employers facilitate this with, for example, one study day per month between the mandatory modules. The program provides formal qualifications 30 credits (ECTS) in higher education.

Development of one´s training skills is a challenging process that requires participation in a learning community where you can access regular mentoring and collegial support. It is therefore required that students attend all training days of the program. Any day missed may result in a student being asked to complete additional individual work if the program coordinator considers it necessary.  If a student misses more than two days of the training program, the Certificate will not be awarded unless either the participant makes up the missed days by participating in another training program of the IMA, or one that is recommended by it, not necessarily in Norway. To fulfill this requirement, a student may have to travel to another country on the European continent. If another program is not available within a reasonable time period, and the program coordinator agrees, the student may make up to four missed days by completing extra written or reading assignments, as well as being an observer in the units of an eight-week MBSR he/she has missed. If a student misses more than four days in all, a certificate cannot be awarded unless the missing training program sessions are made up by participation in a similar unit of an IMA program, not necessarily in Norway.

For those students seeking MBCT certification, every day of the unit on MBCT must be attended. If the unit is missed, either partially or in its entirety, it must be made up by attending a similar session in another IMA program.  An MBCT certificate will not be issued until this requirement is completed.

Any deviance from these rules of attendance are granted solely at the discretion of the IMA.

Expected learning outcomes

The program is for persons with an established mindfulness practice and who wish to instruct others in MBSR/MBCT. After completing the study, the candidate should have the following learning outcomes defined as knowledge, skills and general competencies:

The candidate has advanced knowledge in the following areas:

  • The theoretical, philosophical and pedagogical foundations of MBSR/MBCT
  • The relationship between mindfulness and
    • Communication
    • Perception and stress
    • Emotions
    • Chronic pain
    • Self-care and compassion  
  • The role of the MBSR/MBCT teacher

The candidate knows the exercises specific to MBSR/MBCT and the similarities and differences between the two programs.

The candidate can create learning materials used in MBSR/MBCT
The candidate can identify potential participants that are suited to take part in MBSR/MBCT and those that are not suited
The candidate can carry out a MBSR/MBCT course professionally and ethically
The candidate is able to work with course participants’ questions and difficulties
The candidate can ensure his/her own well-being
The candidate can reflect on her/his own work and adjust this through the mentoring process.
The candidate is able to review scientific research on MBSR/MBCT.

General competencies
The candidate has knowledge of professional and ethical issues and is able to initiate professional and ethical discussions related to mindfulness
The candidate can apply their knowledge and skills in new areas
The candidate can communicate independent work both in writing, verbally and through other appropriate forms of expression
The candidate can communicate about relevant professional issues
The candidate can contribute to innovation.


The Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches (IMA) has been offering MBSR teacher- training programs since 2002. In Germany, where it is based, it is known under the name: Institut für Achtsamkeit und Stressbewältigung (IAS). The leadership and faculty of both institutes is the same. In addition to Norway, the IMA/IAS currently offers teacher-training programs in Poland, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 
The Institute introduced an MBCT training program in 2007.
The IMA-IAS faculty includes some of Europe’s most senior mindfulness-based approaches teachers and researchers, as well as guest teachers from the U.S.A. The 
high level of professionalism and experience of the institute’s teaching staff is a highlight of the program. The faculty, which currently numbers almost 25, includes professors of psychology, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, professionals in medicine, social work, public health, nursing, education, physiotherapy, and teachers of Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung. All faculty members also have an established
mindfulness meditation practice.

The IMA ́s teacher-training program is recognized by the German MBSR-MBCT Professional Teachers Association (www.mbsr-verband.org). It is also recognized by the Swiss MBSR-MBCT Professional Teachers Association and MBSR Teacher ́s Association of Austria. Graduates of the IMA ́s training program may apply for membership in these professional associations.
These associations represent their members in their dialogue with health insurance companies, the media, research organizations, government organizations, other professional organizations, and with the general public. The associations also define standards for teacher training as well as ethical standards for good practice.

The IMA subscribes to the standards of the „Good Practice Guidelines for Teaching Mindfulness-Based Courses“ of the U.K. Mindfulness-Based Teacher Trainer Network.
The IMA also subscribes to the “Principles and Standards” of Training Teachers to Deliver Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” as listed on the Center for Mindfulness web site.
In addition, the IMA adheres to the Ethics statement and Policy of the German MBSR Professional Teachers Association.

Target Group

The program is relevant for most professionals and especially psychologists, doctors, teachers, nurses, health and social workers, occupational, art or music therapists, chaplains, coaches, leaders, etc. The program is for persons with an established mindfulness practice and who wish to instruct others in MBSR/MBCT.

Admission Criteria

For regular admission the minimum requirements are;  

  • A bachelors degree or equivalent
  • One year of relevant work experience (health care, education, management, mentoring, HR, etc.)
  • Completion of a minimum 30 ECTS further education program in mindfulness or at least two years continual mindfulness practice prior to applying

As a part of the application process all qualified applicants will be required to attend an orientation seminar on the 11th of October 2015 in Oslo.

For non-Norwegian applicants see the GUC requirements regarding English competency;

Other requirements:

Students who have not participated in a five-day silent retreat will be required to do so during the first year of the program and to document it.

Students without a minimum of one year's experience with mindful bodywork (e.g. yoga, tai chi, qigong) will be required to participate in formalized training in gentle yoga in their own communities. The student signs a form agreeing to this special agreement at the beginning of the program.  The student will also turn in a form with their final thesis that documents the extent of their training signed by their instructor.  If they neglect to do this training and/or to submit documentation, they will not be considered to have completed the requirements necessary to receive a pass grade from GUC or a certificate from the IMA.

If the IMA considers it necessary, some students may be required to receive guidance for their meditation practice during the training program. The student signs a form agreeing to this special agreement at the beginning of the program.  The student will also turn in a form with their final thesis that documents the dates when meditation guidance took place.  If they neglect to do this guidance and/or to submit the form documenting guidance dates, they will not be considered to have completed the requirements necessary to receive a pass grade from GUC or a certificate from the IMA. The meditation guide must be approved from the IMA or selected from their list of approved meditation guides.  A student may present a meditation guide of their own choice for IMA consideration, but the approval of this guide is solely at the discretion of the IMA. Guidance is normally per Skype or telephone unless both parties agree to meeting in person. This usually occurs once every three months or a minimum of five times during the program. The cost of this guidance comes in addition to the other costs and is based on an agreement between the individual student and meditation guide. The fees charged for the guidance are to be paid directly to the guide. Each guide charges his/her own fee, which is determined by the guide alone and is part of the agreement between the student and the guide. A signed confirmation regarding completion of the meditation guidance, including the dates and duration of the guidance, shall be handed in as an addendum to the Thesis.

Course Structure

Acquisition of competency in mindfulness requires the use of an adequate amount of time in developing one´s own meditation practice. The program places great demands on the candidate's independence in that the candidate must commit to working with formal and informal mindfulness exercises at least one hour six days a week throughout the study. It is also essential to allocate time for reflection and mentoring. Through participation in online discussions between modules and peer mentoring at the modules candidates will have the opportunity to develop their instruction skills.

Seven modules, consisting of five á four days (Thursday-Sunday), one either four or five days (Wednesday-Sunday) and one á three days (Friday-Sunday) will be held during the program. Attendance at these modules is mandatory. The first, fifth and seventh modules are residential and students must live at the hotel where the seminars are taking place. The working methods at the modules will vary between:

  • lectures
  • discussions
  • exercises
  • student presentations
  • peer mentoring in groups

The program consists of one course á 30 credits over the duration of three semesters. Course requirements must be approved before a student can continue to the next semester or submit the final thesis. Teaching will take place in five modules over four days, one over five days and one over three days.

The content of the modules is as follows;

Module 1
Getting acquainted.
Presentation of the structure and content of the MBSR
Introduction to the Body Scan and Raisin Exercise
Participant requirements for an MBSR course, including indications and contraindications.
Conducting interviews prior to an eight-week course.
Reviewing the content and the teaching of exercises of Week 1 of an MBSR course.

Module 2
Reflecting on one’s own Body Scan practice
Introduction to inquiry – the art of leading exploratory dialogue and group discussion
Introduction to teaching gentle yoga for an MBSR course in practice and theory
Reviewing content and the teaching of exercises of Week 2 of an MBSR course.

Module 3
How do I teach mindfulness meditation in the context of MBSR/MBCT?
Fundamental aspects of mindfulness, presentation of the sitting meditation
Facilitating inquiry on the theme (from homework) of pleasant and unpleasant experiences
A brief look at research on mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions in various settings such as hospitals, business, and schools
Reviewing content and the teaching of exercises of Week 3 of an MBSR course.

Module 4
Stress as a central topic of an MBSR course
Exploring one’s motivations for teaching MBSR
Differences between MBSR and psychotherapy
The art of Inquiry (Part 2): Continuing to work with exploratory discussion in MBSR.
Mindfulness and emotions: Theoretical and practical aspects of dealing with emotions. Guiding participants in being with their emotions mindfully
Emotional intelligence of the MBSR teacher, and why it is so important
Reviewing content and the teaching of exercises of Week 4, 5 and the Day of Mindfulness of an MBSR course.

Module 5
The distinctive aspects of MBCT as used in mental health settings.
For whom is MBCT most appropriate in the light of the latest efficacy evidence
Review of the MBCT eight week course curriculum in detail
Cognitive therapy components central to the changes that people experience
Reviewing content and the teaching of exercises of MBCT.

Module 6
The day of mindfulness following the sixth week of an MBSR/MBCT course
Aspects of pedagogy in an MBSR/MBCT course
Mentoring of topics that arise while teaching an MBSR/MBCT course
Conducting interviews after a course ends will also be discussed
The art of inquiry: Part 3. Time to practice and answer any questions that may arise
Reviewing content and the teaching of Week 6, 7 and 8 of an MBSR course.

Module 7
Mentoring and discussion on themes arising out of teaching an MBSR/MBCT course
The teacher-student relationship
The code of ethics
Discussion of final projects
How does an MBSR/MBCT teacher take care of his/her own well-being
Closing of the training program.

Forms of assessment
Each student must teach a full eight-week MBSR course as it is presented in the training program in order to fulfill the terms of the program. The course can be taught at the earliest beginning in January 2017. Students may request to co-teach a course with someone else in the program, however permission to do so is granted at the discretion of the IMA and as such students must apply in writing for permission to teach together with someone else. Because of the challenges involved in becoming an instructor, the teaching of one’s own eight-week MBSR course must be completed at the latest within one year of the ordinary completion of the teacher-training program.

Each student must write and speak their own texts in their native language for three digital audio recordings: the Body Scan, Sitting Meditation and Mindful Yoga.

A participant handbook for an eight-week course will be created by each student and usually done individually. The IMA will supply a sample participant handbook in either Norwegian or English that students modify and adapt to their specific context. Students teaching in pairs may create and use the same handbook together.

Each student must complete a final thesis. The thesis will be a documentation of the eight-week course that the participant taught. It will include a presentation of what was taught, reflections on teaching situations, and a personal reflection about one’s own development as a teacher. The length of the thesis must be between 4000 and 5000 words. The thesis must be submitted in English, but the student may write the thesis in their native language and use translator software (e.g. Google Translate). An emphasis will be on the quality of the student’s reflections and not on the correctness of their written English. The thesis will be graded as either pass or fail. If the grade of fail is given, the participant may be asked to write additional material or answer questions more thoroughly before resubmitting. If two students opt to co-teach a course, each person must submit a final thesis in her own words. Each co-teacher must speak her/his own audio recordings for each of the main exercises.

A minimum of six individual 50-Minutes sessions either per Skype or in person with a mentor approved by the IMA during the teaching of the eight-week course is required.

The student will submit to the mentor a written reflection on each week of the eight-week course taught plus the day of mindfulness. They will submit these reflections per email at least two days before the mentoring. These written reflections and additional reflections following the mentoring sessions, will form the basis for part of the final thesis.

The student is free to select the mentor of his/or choice from among the IMA’s recommended mentors.
The student may be required to receive more mentoring when it is deemed necessary. The number of additional hours necessary will be determined in consultation with the mentor. Only when the IMA and the mentor agree that the student is ready to receive a certificate, will it be awarded.
The charges for mentoring are not included in the course fees and are to be paid directly to the mentor. Each mentor charges his/her own fee, which is determined by the mentor alone and is part of the agreement between the student and the mentor. A signed confirmation regarding completion of the mentoring, including the dates and duration of the mentoring, shall be handed in as an addendum to the Thesis.

All persons who successfully complete the training program according to the terms specified will receive a certificate as an MBSR Trainer. An MBCT Teacher Certificate will also be awarded to those persons who complete the program according to the terms specified, including attendance on all days of the MBCT session of the training program, and are professionally qualified according to the laws of the country in which they live to work with patients who have been diagnosed as experiencing mental health conditions such as clinical depression, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, severe anxiety or panic syndrome, etc. If a participant of the teacher training program is working in a clinical setting where he/she is working in a team or with a colleague who is qualified to work with people with mental health conditions such as those listed above, a certificate can be awarded on the understanding that he/she will teach MBCT only in a setting where such supervision is available. The student will be asked to sign a statement confirming that he/she is aware of this requirement.

The student will submit on Fronter as their final exam:
a) A digital copy of a thesis in English between 4000-5000 words (including signed confirmation of completed mentoring sessions and in addition, when required, of the meditation guidance sessions and/or yoga training).
b) Digital audio recordings of the Body Scan, Sitting Meditation and Mindful 
Bodywork/Yoga given to participants in her own course.
c) A digital copy of the student handbook given to participants in his/her own eight-week MBSR course.
Each of the three parts of the exam must be evaluated to a grade of pass in order to pass the course and receive the diploma.

Coursework requirements
Students will continuously document their own work through participation in a discussion forum on the web-based learning platform Fronter. All posts will be accessible to the rest of the class within Fronter. Posts may be written in Norwegian or English. A list of hand-in deadlines will be given out at the first module.

A minimum of 20 discussion posts;

  • A learning and development post (min 400 words)
  • An autobiography post (min 600 words)
  • Six module posts (min 200 words)
  • Six literature posts (min 200 words)
  • Six practicum posts (min 200 words)

The learning and development post is a description of the student’s personal expectations and goals for the program as well as a plan for how to achieve those goals. It should describe relevant experience, prior knowledge and presumed relevance of MBSR/MBCT for the student’s own work. As part of the plan, the student will present a time management strategy for organising their study work most effectively.

An autobiography post is a reflection on the student’s own life story and psychological development with a special focus on how this unique story will affect their practice as an MBSR/MBCT instructor.

A module post is a reflection on the student’s experience of the previous module, including an analysis of what they considered to be the most important learning processes and outcomes and their relevance for their own practice. A minimum of one module post is written after each of the first six modules.

A literature post is a synthesis of an important perspective from the literature. The goal is to develop skills in summarising the literature, integrating theory into the student’s own frameworks of understanding and seeing the relevance of theory for practice.

A practicum post is based on the student’s mindfulness practice and reflects their own personal growth and the challenges and opportunities inherent in mindfulness-based approaches and relevance for their own work situation and professional development.

In addition, as mentioned above, each student will submit eight written reflections, one for each week of the eight-week course and the day of mindfulness, to their mentor two days prior to mentoring. Each reflection should be between 500-600 words.

Relation to other programs and relevance
This program builds on and is a continuation of ‘Videreutdanning i oppmerksomt nærvær’.

Technical Prerequisites

To follow the program, it is essential that students have access to a PC with internet connection.

Table of subjects