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We certify people as teachers of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. We do not certify people in "mindfulness" or as meditation teachers. MBSR teacher certification is available to people who have demonstrated a deep commitment to this work over a period of years. They must have completed all of the training requirements as listed on this website. These requirements include not only training courses but also a great deal of teaching experience and a depth of practice in mindfulness meditation. People seek certification because it may allow them to teach in institutional settings such as hospitals and universities where the institutions require that teachers be certified. We do not require that people be certified in order to teach. In fact, you must have years of MBSR teaching experience before you can apply for a Teacher Certification Review.
Please see our meditation retreats page that describes the intention for our requiring retreats of all MBSR teacher trainees and that also provides guidance in selecting a retreat. We respect and appreciate the value of retreats from many different contemplative traditions. For the purpose of satisfying the prerequisites to teach MBSR, we require extended silent teacher-led retreats that emphasize the practice of mindfulness meditation.
At the present time we do not offer any of the core MBSR teacher training courses in an online format. The possibility of doing so is being studied, but the need for close personal interactions, observations, and feedback in the training process make it difficult to translate to an online format.
One can become a teacher of MBSR without having a graduate degree. We strongly prefer that all certified teachers of MBSR have graduate degrees in fields that are relevant to the teaching (for example degrees in psychology, medicine, or education). The depth of a person's professional and personal commitment to this work is more important that the actual field of study. Some people have applied for MBSR teacher certification without a graduate degree and were successfully able to make a case that their life experience, on both a personal and professional basis, provided them with an equivalent level of understanding and skill. We are open to people making such a case for themselves at the time they apply for certification, but we cannot guarantee that we will accept all such requests. We do not provide an advanced review of a person's qualifications and experience. The only time when you can ask to have our life experience reviewed for equivalency to a graduate degree is at the time you apply for teacher certification.
Sometimes people feel a sense of urgency and inspiration to start teaching as quickly as possible. While we understand this urgency, it is vitally important to note that preparing to teach MBSR is not just about acquiring skills and following a prepared curriculum. In order to prepare oneself to meet the people who enroll and the extraordinary ranges of human suffering that are often presented in a class, an MBSR teacher needs to allow an adequate, indefinable amount of time to explore the curriculum, to develop appropriate teaching skills, and especially to cultivate a rich and deep mindfulness meditation practice. We do not offer, and we strongly caution against the use of, any quick paths to becoming an MBSR teacher.
Over the years we have trained many MBSR teachers who came to us with extensive meditation retreat experience and meditation teaching experience. We have found that MBSR courses are sufficiently different than meditation courses and retreats that it is essential for everyone to complete the full sequence of MBSR teacher training as outlined on this web site. The only difference in your process may be that if you already have completed meditation retreats that meet our requirement you do not need to do additional retreats simply to fulfill the requirements for MBSR teacher training. Your past retreats will suffice (although retreat attendance needs to be within the last three years and we strongly encourage attendance at such retreats on an ongoing basis).
The majority of the MBSR teachers that we train have professional experience in health care and related fields. Regardless of past professional experience, training, and education, the programs outlined on this web site are necessary for all prospective MBSR teachers. There is no single workshop that will enable you to begin teaching MBSR. We also know that many health care professionals do not aspire to teach the 8-week MBSR course but are more interested in bringing mindfulness into their current professional practices or teaching short workshops. The final question on this page is for people with such an interest.
We firmly believe that having a well established personal daily mindfulness meditation practice is the foundation for sharing this work with others. From that perspective, we continue to recommend taking an MBSR course both to support your own practice and also to learn how other participants respond to their own practices. We certainly encourage participation in suitable mindfulness meditation retreats. Many health care practitioners who do not aspire to teach the 8-week MBSR course find that the MBSR Practicum or the MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine 7-Day Training provides a strong experience of mindfulness practice as taught in MBSR while also exploring applications of mindfulness in health care settings.
Each of our recommended training programs has its own cost. In addition, the costs for taking an MBSR course and a meditation retreat can vary widely by location. The costs for our training programs such as the Practicum in MBSR and the MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine courses are listed on the web pages for each course.
Over 30 years of international teaching and training experience has taught us that it takes time, intention, and practice to become a skillful MBSR teacher. We recommend that a person think of the teacher training process in terms of years, not weeks or months. Some people try to fit all of the required courses together as quickly as possible. We ask that you allow time to integrate what you learn from each step in the process before rushing into the next step. Please see this web page for some of our thoughts on becoming an MBSR teacher.
We strongly recommend that all prospective teachers, at a minimum, complete the following before beginning to teach the full MBSR course:
- Take an 8-week MBSR course* as a regular participant, not as a professional trainee. This will provide a basic understanding of the course itself. More importantly, it will provide an experience of what it is like to be a participant in this course, engaging in the core practices and learning from the other participants. Click here for information on MBSR courses at the Center for Mindfulness If you do not have a live 8 Week MBSR class in your area, participation in the MBSR Online course offered through Sounds True together with enrolling in the Mindfulness Tools MBSR Program, a 5 day residential program, fulfills this prerequisite.
- Attend at least one silent, teacher-led mindfulness meditation retreat with duration of at least 5-10 days. Please see this web page for more details on our retreat requirement.
- Participate in our Practicum in MBSR. This course is offered in two formats: either one full day per week for 8 consecutive weeks here at UMass Medical School or a 9-Day Intensive format that is designed for those who live outside of our region. Please see this web page for more details.
- Participate in our MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine 7-Day Training.
- Participate in the Teacher Development Intensive (TDI). This training is offered several times a year, both nationally and internationally.
Note: the Practicum in MBSR and the MBSR in Mind-Body Medicine 7-Day Training can be taken in either order. Once all of the foundational training has been completed, a person might begin teaching MBSR. After beginning to teach, then a series of optional advanced training courses are available. Please see this web page for our recommended training sequence. Please note that some people begin their mindfulness teaching work by offering short workshops and classes containing elements of MBSR. Teaching such workshops and classes can be a valuable part of the MBSR teacher training process.
At present, we recognize the 8-week Practicum in MBSR offered by Bob Stahl in Mountain View, California as being equivalent to our own 8-week Practicum. We are exploring the possibility of establishing a more formal relationship with trainers in other locations so that 8-week Practicum and, perhaps other courses, can be more widely available.
Some aspects of MBSR teacher training may be available in the area in which you live. For example, you may find an 8-week MBSR course in your area and you may find a suitable mindfulness meditation retreat in your area. The Practicum in MBSR is offered by the Center for Mindfulness as a weekly course here at UMass in Worcester, MA and it is also offered as a 9-Day Intensive twice per year in the USA and one or two times per year in other countries. The only other Practicum that we currently recognize as being equivalent to ours is offered by Bob Stahl in Mountain View, California.