MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) is a structured 8-week program created in 1979 at Massachusetts university clinic by Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of psychology & co-workers. Initially, chronic pain patients were targeted; later, it was found to be effective for stress with various other causes. The program gradually spread mainly in the USA and Western Europe, being commonly used also in business, education and health care settings. In Germany, for example, health insurance partially covers participation in the course as burnout prevention & recovery. To benefit fully from the course, however, no prior knowledge is necessary.
MSBR was extensively studied academically and pioneered scientific research of mindfulness, being considered the golden standard of evidence-based intervention; nowadays, MBSR and mindfulness-related research is published in impacted journals with increasing rate. The main popular publication about the program is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
“Mindfulness” is not the usual awareness of content of our thoughts/feelings/ physical sensations − it is the awareness that and how thoughts/feelings/sensations happen. Historically, mindfulness has its roots in the Buddhist insight meditation (vipassanā).
The courses are meant for those who:
- look for constructive approach to stress, be it from personal or professional life (overload, relationship conflicts, melancholy, loss of a close person, sickness);
- need to deal with stress symptoms (inner restlessness, sleeplessness, migraines, fatigue, anxiety, irritation) or would like to prevent them from reoccurring;
- want to learn to care about their inner space, to relate to oneself and others with awareness and kindness;
- would like to complement medical or terapeutical treatment (MBSR is not its replacement).
During the course, participants learn to be aware of stress through its manifestations (in body, feelings, mind); how it originates about, how and why it amplifies through often automatic reactions (e.g. tape-loops of self-pity, fear, negative judgement of oneself or others) and how to deal with it through mindfulness. These skills are trained in various mindfulness-oriented exercises (of body and mind) presented in the course and practiced at home (with recordings, later without recordings), guided discussions of one’s experience in the group, some theory and written materials for individual study.
The standard structure is 8 weeks. That means 7 weeks of individual daily practice of mindfulness (“formal” practice in dedicated time − approx. 30−45 minutes a day, with recordings and other instructions; “informal” practice during daily activities) which is supported by 8 regular group sessions (each about 2-2.5 hours) with time for reflection, new exercises, support, etc. Each session builds upon the previous ones and supports the daily practice.