How to Become an MBSR Instructor
As the need for mental health and wellness continues to grow, so does the demand for mindfulness meditation teachers. Within the field there are a number of different mindfulness methodologies to train in. MBSR is the most established. There are also plenty of teacher training institutions to choose from, with various pros and cons. To help aspiring teachers navigate the MBSR teacher training pathway, we have created this resource.
MBSR is the most scientifically researched and well-established mindfulness training program. To learn more about MBSR, click here.
Currently there is no official association or governing body for MBSR training. The International Mindfulness Integrity Network, however, has established recommended standards and members of this group have published a paper that can be found here.
In 2000, the professional training of MBSR teachers was developed and launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. All current MBSR teacher training institutions have either evolved directly from the original Center for Mindfulness at UMASS program, or were spun off by senior UMASS Center For Mindfulness teachers. What binds all the training institutions together is their focus on the delivery of the original 8-week MBSR training program as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. and explicated in Full Catastrophe Living.
MBSR teacher training is based around retreats, mentorship, and most importantly, real experience teaching MBSR classes. Universally, independence and autonomy increase as the prospective instructor completes more and more training along their chosen institution’s track. Most tracks are set up to begin with training intensives and mentorship to allow the prospective instructor to begin gaining experience.
Before beginning the process of becoming an MBSR instructor, a prospective MBSR teacher must complete a number of prerequisites. These prerequisites are; participation in an 8-week MBSR class with a live instructor, a five to seven day silent retreat, and at least one to two years of personal, daily mindfulness practice. These prerequisites are universal across all MBSR Teacher Training institutions, although some institutions may have additional requirements, such as a master’s degree or yoga training. After completing these prerequisites, the next step is to choose an institution at which to pursue certification.
Currently there are a number of institutions certifying MBSR teachers, many of which have established standards. However, given the current lack of an official governing body we decided to explore six programs with various levels of depth, some offered by highly regarded educational institutions and others by established MBSR teachers in the community. For each we will explore an overview, training pathway, cost, duration, and share where you can learn more.
Mindfulness Center at Brown University
Brown University’s MBSR teacher training path is split into three levels. After completing the first level, the prospective teacher is able to teach MBSR classes, and completes the remaining levels by teaching with a mentor, attending retreats, and completing assessments. Brown also requires its prospective students to hold a graduate degree or the equivalent.
Prospective teachers who choose the Mindfulness Center at Brown University then begin what Brown University calls “Level 1” by taking the MBSR Foundations course. Foundations is a 10-week program and generally costs around $2,800. After Foundations, an aspiring instructor practices offering introductory workshops, completes another five to seven day retreat, and completes the Teacher Advancement Intensive (TAI). Both Foundations and the TAI are offered by various institutions. After completing the TAI, an instructor is considered a Level 1 qualified/authorized instructor by Brown and can begin teaching MBSR classes independently.
“Level 2” comes next. Level 2 study begins with the teacher actively teaching MBSR classes alongside a study group and a mentor. Another retreat, called the “Insight Inside Us Retreat” is also required at this point. After the instructor teaches an additional four to six MBSR 8-week courses, they have completed Level 2.
“Level 3” begins with another silent retreat. The final step in the process is the MBSR Teacher Training Assessment, which gives the instructor the descriptor of “Certified to Teach MBSR” upon completion if approved.
According to the Center for Mindfulness website, the full teacher training program total is $11,450, not including retreat costs. Teaching MBSR after reaching Level 1 can help offset the cost of these training programs.
From the beginning of MBSR Foundations to the end of the Teacher Advancement Intensive takes approximately nine months if done consecutively, at which point an instructor can begin facilitating MBSR independently.
After this point, the instructor moves through Level 2 and Level 3 at their own pace. Under ideal circumstances, an instructor could attend the required retreats and workshops and teach enough MBSR 8-week courses to become fully certified in around three years. In reality, workshop availability and demand for instructors mean it sometimes takes as long as four or more years to complete the full certification track with Brown.
Where to Learn More
More information can be found on the Brown Center for Mindfulness website.
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute
Certification is also available from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). UCSD separates its training into two sections, Teacher Qualification and Teacher Certification. A qualified teacher can teach MBSR but has not completed their training, while a certified teacher has fully completed all training and mentorship required. While the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute is based in California, their in person trainings are also held elsewhere in the country, such as in Massachusetts and New York.
In addition to the same prerequisites as other training tracks, a UCSD teacher must attend a 6-day MBSR Teacher Training Intensive (TTI), and an online 10-week MBSR Teacher Training Practicum before applying for “Teacher in Training” status. Once this status is granted, the instructor completes 18 hours of mentorship while teaching two 8-week MBSR courses. After this mentorship and teaching is completed, the instructor can apply for full Teacher Qualification status. UCSD teachers must also have advanced degrees or equivalent experiences and training.
The next section, Teacher Certification, begins with teaching an additional five 8-week MBSR courses. Then the instructor attends an Advanced Teacher Training Intensive (ATTI) and completes an additional 10 hours of mentorship alongside teaching an additional 8-week MBSR course. After this last 10 hours of mentorship, the instructor can apply for and receive full Teacher Certification.
The MBPT lists the estimated cost of full MBSR teacher training certification as $11,190, plus room and board.
Completing the MBPT in its entirety takes approximately two years if done consecutively, though of course it can take longer depending on the availability of the prospective instructor.
Where to Learn More
More information can be found on the Mindfulness Based Professional Training Institute website.
Centre for Mindfulness Studies
The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto offers an MBSR facilitation certificate divided into four steps. The first step is the same prerequisites as other training programs. Steps two through four consist of training intensives, practicums, mentorship, assessments, and of course, MBSR facilitation.
Step 2 on the Centre for Mindfulness Path begins with a short 6 hour Mindfulness Core Concepts training. Next comes a 6-day live or online MBSR Teacher Training Intensive and a 10-week MBSR Practicum, which can be taken in either order. Following completion of this step, the trainee can call themselves an MBSR Facilitator-In-Training.
Step 3 of the training path consists of 12 hours of mentorship by one of the Centre for Mindfulness’ MBSR Mentors while facilitating an 8-week MBSR program. Step 3 also includes a 12 hour training called Inquiry Essentials. After Step 3, the Centre gives the trainees the title of Trained MBSR Facilitator.
Step 4, the final step of the training path begins with facilitating two additional 8-week MBSR courses before moving onto an Advanced Teacher Training Intensive. Following this advanced intensive, another round of mentorship over the course of a fourth 8-week MBSR program is required. Trainees can choose to stay with their mentor from Step 3 for the 12 hours of mentorship in Step 4. Then, once the mentor writes a letter of recommendation on behalf of the trainee, Step 4 is complete and the trainee can be referred to as a Certified MBSR Facilitator.
The Centre for Mindfulness estimates the total cost of its training path to be $11,335 across Steps 2, 3, and 4.
Step 2 consists of 11 weeks of learning material, although trainees are advised to enroll in the MBSR practicum 3-4 weeks in advance, meaning that in total step 2 should take around 15 weeks to complete, assuming ideal scheduling. Steps 3 and 4 take place over the course of four total rounds of 8-week MBSR courses, and so need a minimum of 32 weeks to complete, not accounting for administrative lead time. The Centre for Mindfulness Studies training could be completed in a year, although it is more realistic to plan for two years.
Where to Learn More
More information can be found on the Centre for Mindfulness Studies website.
Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice Teacher Training Pathway
The Mindfulness Network is a UK based charity that offers MBSR Teacher Training in conjunction with Bangor University and the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice (CMRP). Their Trainee Handbook describes a program divided into three phases, Practising Teacher, Trained Teacher, and Competency-assessed Teacher. Over the course of training, the teacher creates a “portfolio” of records and reflections on their training and teaching experience.
“Certification as a Trained Teacher” first requires completion of a 9-week non-residency or 7-day residential program, known as the Teacher Training Retreat level 1 (TTR1). After this retreat, a prospective teacher teaches three or more 8-week MBSR courses under supervision of a mentor. Then, an additional 5-day specialist training, a 2-day Inquiry workshop, and a 5-day retreat are required. At this point, the teacher submits their portfolio to the Center for Mindfulness Research and Practice for review and certification.
“Certification as a Competency-assessed Teacher” requires the instructor to register for the Mindfulness Teacher Professional pathway (MTTP) module at Bangor University. This module includes teaching an 8-week MBSR course, recorded on video, and writing a reflective piece. Upon completion, the teacher receives their second certification. If not all the retreats and trainings can be completed, there is an optional “early exit point” to become a “Practicing Teacher,” and adhere to the CMRPs Good Practice Guidelines.
Teacher training costs throughout the CMRP pathway total £3,281. Annual retreats are also required, with costs of £320 to £345. Supervision while teaching MBSR courses costs £50-£60 per hour session, with an hour session recommended either weekly or biweekly. The FAQ Page on the Mindfulness Network Website estimates the full training program to cost between £5,000 and £7,500, or $6,838 - $10,254.
The Mindfulness Network estimates that their TTP takes two years or more to complete, depending on how much time the teacher in training has to commit to the process.
Where to Learn More
More information can be found in the Mindfulness Network Trainee Handbook.
Note: Bangor University
It is possible to become a Certified MBSR Instructor through a 4-year Master of Arts program at Bangor University in Wales, independent of their association with The Mindfulness Network. This program has many more commitments besides MBSR teacher training.
Mindfulness Northwest is a non-profit mindfulness organization headed by MBSR teacher trainer Tim Burnett. He founded the organization to bring mindfulness instruction to the Pacific Northwest Region. They offer an MBSR Teacher Training program both online and in person in a few locations.
The Mindfulness Northwest Teacher Training path is divided into four phases. “Phase I” always begins in the winter, with the prospective teacher acting as a participant-observer in two MBSR classes. In the first MBSR class, the prospective instructor observes the senior teacher and also acts as a participant. In the second class, the prospective instructor takes on more teaching responsibility. The prospective instructor also meets weekly on Zoom with the rest of their cohort.
“Phase II” continues in the fall of the same year as Phase I. Meetings with the trainee’s cohort continue, and trainees are encouraged to teach MBSR either solo or with another trainee. After each session, the trainees write reflections to be commented on by Mindfulness Northwest’s senior teachers.
“Phase III” of the program is flexible in terms of timing. During this phase, the trainee teaches three MBSR 8-week courses that they organize independently. A mentor is assigned to the trainee to continue commenting on weekly written reflections and to be available for 1-hour video conference meetings. Co-teaching is still available with other trainees or other instructors during this phase, but at least one of the three courses must be taught alone.
“Phase IV,” usually reached during the third year of the teacher training program, involves submitting a teaching portfolio to a senior teacher. The portfolio must include video samples demonstrating MBSR instruction and home practice recordings. Additional training can be recommended at this point, but once approved, the trainee is considered fully capable of teaching MBSR independently.
Total tuition for this program comes to $9,100, plus a $500 application fee.
Mindfulness Northwest estimates their training path to take around three years to complete.
East Coast Mindfulness
East Coast Mindfulness (ECM) was founded by Rebecca Eldridge and Margaret Fletcher, two MBSR teacher trainers who met at the UMass Center for Mindfulness. The East Coast Mindfulness MBSR Teacher Training Pathway is an entirely online program split into three phases. ECM also accommodates students who began their training at other institutions in continuing towards certification with them.
“Phase 1” of the ECM Pathway begins with a “Fundamentals in Teaching MBSR” 7 day intensive course, with an optional 3 day add-on for instructors looking to teach online. Following this intensive, instructors teach their first cycle of MBSR while meeting with a mentor for 90 minutes each week. A 10-week training, “Inside the MBSR Classroom,” follows. A second cycle of mentorship wraps up Phase 1 while the instructor teaches their second cycle of MBSR.
“Phase 2” of the pathway begins with a 4 day “Inquiry Intensive” and continues with four more mentorship sessions while teaching another MBSR 8-week course. A 5-day, MBSR style silent retreat is also required at this point.
“Phase 3” requires the instructor to teach a cycle of MBSR without mentorship and complete a self-assessment. Teacher training then concludes with a “Review & Certification” training, which is one-on-one with a mentor. Upon completion, the teacher is fully certified in teaching MBSR.
ECM offers a sliding scale of costs, allowing teachers to choose to pay at cost, to pay a subsidized rate, or to pay full cost to support others. The minimum total cost of the full training path would be $9,750. The training path at full price would cost $13,580.
ECM estimates that the full course of teacher training takes 2-3+ years to complete, depending on the individual.
Mindfulness Teacher Training Alliance
The Mindfulness Teacher Training Alliance (MTTA) is a Global Mindfulness Collaborative (GMC) recognized MBSR teacher training institution. We at Mindful Leader partner with them to offer the MBSR Foundations course. MTTA also offers all the other components of the GMC Teacher Training Pathway, including retreats, the Teacher Advancement Intensive, MBSR Teacher Mentorship, and Skill Development Workshops.
The MTTA training path follows the Global Mindfulness Collaborative pathway. For this reason, training from other GMC institutions may be “mixed and matched” with training from MTTA. The GMC teacher training path is as follows.
“Preliminary Steps” encapsulates the completion of an MBSR 8-week course and a 5-7 day Insight or Mindfulness silent retreat, as in the case in most other teacher training programs.
“Stage 1” consists of Foundations in MBSR, another 5-7 day retreat, and the presentation of three workshops or short intro classes by the prospective teacher. The workshops can use concepts from the MBSR 8-week course.
“Stage 2” is the successful completion of the Teacher Advancement Intensive.
“Stage 3” begins with the prospective MBSR teacher facilitating their first cycles of the MBSR 8-week course. Mentorship, skill workshops, and more retreats are encouraged at this stage.
“Stage 4” consists of teaching at least six MBSR cycles and attending at least four retreats, and then applying for certification from the MTTA.
MTTA Estimates the total cost of their training path at $10,655, not including the cost of retreats.
As it follows the same standards as the Mindfulness Center at Brown, the MTTA training path should take approximately the same 3-5 years to complete.
Disclaimer: This article was most recently fact checked and confirmed to be accurate on: 8/16/2021