How To Choose a Mindfulness Teacher

How to Choose A Mindfulness Teacher And A Mindfulness Course

As mindfulness becomes more mainstream and as more people take an interest in learning it, more people will present themselves as mindfulness teachers. In fact, there are a bewildering number of individuals and organisations who advertise themselves as such and run courses around the country. Mindfulness teaching is not regulated – yet – so it is important to check out the credentials of any teacher you are thinking of approaching. Make sure they are qualified and competent to teach what they say they are teaching and don’t be shy about asking questions.

First of all, check they have a teaching qualification that meets the requirements of the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers good practice guidelines for teaching mindfulness-based programmes. These guiding principles have been developed to promote good practice in teaching mindfulness. Please follow the link to learn more but at the very least we would advise that you ask the following questions of your teacher before committing yourself to their course.

Where did you do your training?

The UK Network for Mindfulness Based Teachers recognises the following institutions. There are only 16 of them so make sure your teacher has completed the teacher training pathway or has trained with one of them to at least Post Graduate Diploma level. One-off teacher training retreats or short courses do not provide sufficient experience in themselves.

  • Aberdeen University
  • Action on Addiction
  • Breathworks
  • Bangor University
  • Enter Mindfulness
  • Exeter University
  • Integrated Mindfulness
  • Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • London Meditation
  • Mindflow Solutions
  • Mindful Health Ltd
  • Mindfulness Association Ltd
  • Mindfulness Cumbria
  • Oxford University
  • Salford University
  • Sussex Mindfulness Centre

If the teacher has not trained at one of these institutions for the required period, they may still be able to teach aspects of mindfulness but there will be limitations. They must not advertise their courses as either MBSR or MBCT. Although a qualification in counselling or some other form of therapy may be very helpful, it would not, in itself, constitute a credential to teach mindfulness.

What is your personal practice?

Teaching mindfulness has to come from a solid base of personal mindfulness practice otherwise it is not authentic. Your teacher should have a regular daily meditation practice and attend at least one week-long residential retreat every year.

Who is your supervisor?

Again this is absolutely essential. All teachers should have a supervisor who is an experienced mindfulness teacher and is recognised by one of the institutions listed above. They should speak with their supervisor at least once a month for an hour. Supervision keeps us on the right track and helps us manage challenges in our teaching practice. Without it we could cause inadvertent harm. We need to check in with a supervisor regularly. It keeps everyone safe.

What’s your professional background?

Your teacher needs to demonstrate that they have a professional qualification in mental or physical health care, education or social care, or have equivalent life experience, recognized by the organization or context within which the teaching will take place. Most reputable mindfulness teachers will have a solid professional background in one of these areas. This is particularly important when teaching people who are vulnerable in some way – which is probably most of us at some time to be honest. If your teacher delivers MBCT courses, then she will need to demonstrate a clear understanding of the relevant psychological processes. This will generally mean she has a mental health qualification of some sort.

How do you keep up to date?

Good teachers never rest on their laurels. They will attend continuing professional development events, conferences, meetings with supervisors and keep up to date with the latest research. They will ask for their teaching to be assessed regularly through submission of video material or by co-working with a more experienced teacher. Good teachers never stop learning so check out what your teacher has been up to recently.

Are you insured?

This is another essential and a sure sign that your teacher takes her teaching seriously. Mindfulness teaching is a very safe activity: I’ve never heard of anyone being harmed by it but that does not mean to say that teachers should be complacent.

Finally, there are a number of respectable therapeutic disciplines in which mindfulness training is an integral part. Examples would be Hakomi, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. Each one of these will have a strict training and supervision requirement and all practitioners will have the relevant qualification. There is no problem there. If you are after a bit of relaxation therapy with a mindful focus, there are a lot of people who will give you that but it probably won’t have the rigour or depth of a course taught by a qualified teacher. But if that’s all you want for now, that’s fine. Just be aware that you’ll get exactly what’s written on the tin.

Donald MurrayComment