Jon Kabat-Zinn began teaching his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) to patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the late 1970s. Participants were introduced to a range of core mindfulness practices – sitting meditation, body-scanning, and mindful movement exercises – as a way to help them manage the pain and stress of their medical conditions. They were also asked to commit to a daily practice using audio guides at home. The class-based MBSR curriculum, of eight two-hour weekly sessions, remains at the core of several programmes that have been specifically adapted to deal with different clinical conditions and contexts.
Most significant of these adaptations has been the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course which was developed by three scientists in the 1990s, as a way to help patients prone to depression by building resilience. MBCT includes basic education about depression and a number of exercises derived from cognitive therapy that demonstrate the links between thinking and feeling, and how best participants can care for themselves when they notice their mood changing or a crisis threatening to overwhelm them.
MBCT is available for the treatment of recurrent depression through the NHS, so if you have suffered from three or more episodes of depression you may be able to access mindfulness training through your GP. Another way to find MBSR or MBCT eight-week courses, or other face-to-face training, is to visit the BeMindful website. The site is provided by the Mental Health Foundation and offers in-depth explanations of the differences between MBCT and MBSR, as well as a listing of practicing teachers within close reach.