Questions to ask
When looking for a mindfulness course, it can be difficult to know whether the course is being taught by a trained teacher and in line with the researched programmes. If you are looking to attend an 8 week course like MBSR, MBCT or MBPM, there are voluntary Good Practice Guidelines in the UK which lay out guiding principles for mindfulness teachers and recommend training routes. By asking some of the following questions, you can find out more about the mindfulness teacher's training and background to help you decide on the right course for you. Trained mindfulness teachers welcome questions like these and are keen to support people in finding reliable courses so please don't hesitate to ask:
1. Where did you train as a mindfulness teacher and how long did it take you?
Teachers using a mindfulness-based approach should have completed a rigorous teacher training programme of at least 12 months. They should also have extensive personal experience of all the meditation practices they will be teaching.
You can find a list of training organisations that are signed up to the guidelines on the UK Network for Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations website though there may be others who may not be listed here yet so this is not a definitive list.
2. What qualifications or background do you have that enabled you to become a mindfulness teacher?
Your teacher should have a professional qualification in mental or physical health care, education or social care or equivalent life experience. Teachers come to mindfulness from a wide range of backgrounds - consider what is important to you and discuss it with the teacher.
This question is especially important if you have been diagnosed as having depression, anxiety or another mental health condition and are considering doing an MBCT course. For these courses the teacher should have a qualification and professional background such as psychologist, therapist or other health or social care profession. We'd suggest talking to your own health professional when considering a course.
3. Do you have experience that is relevant to … [your reason for attending a course]?
They should have knowledge and experience of the people that they will be teaching. For example, some teachers have a specialism in mindfulness for pain management and illness - if you have chronic pain this could be very helpful or you may prefer a more mixed course.
4. Do you meditate/have a mindfulness practice yourself?
Teachers should be committed to practising mindfulness themselves every day. They should also participate in annual residential teacher-led mindfulness meditation retreats as part of their ongoing development.
5. How do you get advice or supervision on your mindfulness teaching?
You teacher should have a supervisor who helps them develop their teaching and own mindfulness practice. They should also be in regular contact with other mindfulness practitioners and teachers, to share their experiences, reflect on their personal experience of mindfulness and learn collaboratively . They should also receive feedback on their teaching from time to time using video recordings, or by having another teacher sit in, or teach with them on a teaching session.
6. What sort of ongoing training do you do?
Your teacher should also undertake further training from time to time, keep up to date with the latest evidence and research in the field, and record and reflect on their teaching sessions.
Be Mindful is a Mental Health Foundation web resource which contains a wealth of information about mindfulness. Many trained mindfulness teachers list their courses here. You can visit the Be Mindful site and run a postcode search for local Mindfulness Courses by clicking on the button below.
The UK Good Practice Guidelines were produced by the UK Network for Mindfulness Teacher Training Organisations. This includes Bangor, Exeter, Oxford, Salford and Aberdeen universities and other approved training centres like Sussex Mindfulness Centre and Breathworks. You can see the most-up-to-date list of affiliated training organisations here. Other training organisations also train teachers to UK Guidelines standards but may not be listed here. We think that asking the questions above and assuring yourself in that way is probably a good way to approach this for now.