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History of MBSR

Since its inception, more than 24,000 people have completed our Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program and learned how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness.

MBSR was founded by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and has been featured in:

  • Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary Healing and The Mind
  • NBC Dateline
  • ABC’s Chronicle 
  • The Boston Globe
  • CNN
  • Al Jazeera
  • NHK, Japan national public broadcasting

and in various national print media. It is the subject of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s best selling book, Full Catastrophe Living and Saki Santorelli’s book, Heal Thy Self.

The central focus of the Program is intensive training in mindfulness meditation and its integration into the challenges/adventures of everyday life.

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Research Snapshot

Our work over the past thirty-five years has shown consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstrations of major and clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical diagnoses, including many different chronic pain conditions, other medical diagnoses and in medical patients with a secondary diagnosis of anxiety and/or panic, over the eight weeks of the MBSR intervention, and maintenance of these changes in some cases for up to four years of follow-up.

We have also seen consistent, reliable, and reproducible demonstrations of significant and clinically relevant increases in trait measures which are usually stable in adulthood, indicative of enhanced psychological hardiness (Kobasa) and greater sense of coherence (Antonovsky) over the course of the eight week intervention, and maintenance of these gains for up to three years of follow-up. The latter measures indicate a heightened sense of self and self-in-relationship, and a greater ability to find coherence and act effectively under high degrees of stress. These changes enhance the experience of self-efficacy in patients and their view of the value of engaging in their own on-going health and well-being through meditation, yoga, and above all, the systematic cultivation of awareness [Kabat-Zinn, Skillings, and Salmon, manuscript submitted].

MBSR Principles

MBSR spans a confluence of epistemologies and practices from two very distinct and until recently, divergent lineages, both committed to empirical investigation, albeit utilizing very different methodologies: that of science, medicine, and psychology, on the one hand, and that of Buddhist meditative traditions and their teachings and practices, known collectively as the Dharma, on the other. One reason MBSR proved viable in mainstream clinical settings is that the Dharma is in essence universal. Mindfulness, often being spoken of as "the heart of Buddhist meditation," and being primarily about the systematic training and refinement of attention and awareness, compassion and wisdom, is a manifestation of its universal applicability. In the present context, to recognize the universal character of the dharma, we use the term with a small "d."