Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Information for Health Professionals

Mindfulness is emerging as an evidence-based tool for enhancing psychological and physical health. It is particularly useful for ruminative type patterns of depression and chronic pain, for increasing awareness and acceptance and the reduction of fear avoidance and catastrophising thought patterns.

Mindfulness is a type of attentional training that has its roots in Eastern philosophy and meditation practices. It can be described as:

'Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally' (Kabat-Zinn 1994)

The practices involve intentionally bringing one's attention to present moment experiences (such as bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, sights and sounds) to reduce the tendency for over-thinking and ruminating analysis. The ability to direct attention in this way is cultivated through a range of mindfulness exercises, including sitting meditation, awareness of breathing, body-scan exercises and gentle Hatha yoga. Participants also practice Mindfulness in ordinary activities like eating, walking and standing.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the most frequently cited method of Mindfulness training. Others include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for relapsing depression and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) for borderline personality disorder.

MBSR was developed in 1979 by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for populations with a wide range of chronic pain and stress related disorders. The Centre for Mindfulness (still based at UMass) describes mindfulness as 'a way to experientially learn to take better care of yourself by exploring and understanding the interplay of mind and body and mobilising your own inner resources for coping, growing and healing'

Who will benefit?

MBSR has benefited people reporting a range of conditions and concerns:

  • STRESS - related to work, school, financial, illness, ageing, pain
  • MEDICAL CONDITIONS - including chronic illness and pain, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, IBS and skin conditions
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS - including anxiety, panic, depression (MBCT may be more appropriate, and referral can be arranged if needed), fatigue and sleep disturbances
  • PREVENTION AND WELLNESS - general health enhancement and wellness focussing on prevention and learning how to take good care of yourself and for feeling a greater sense of embodiment, balance and ease

For any questions or concerns regarding MBSR for any particular patient, a full screening and interview will be conducted prior to the commencement of the course. The classes are also suitable and highly relevant to health professionals.

What is involved?

Eight, weekly two- and-a-half-hour classes and a one full day retreat.

The classes are highly participatory, supportive and structured

Each session provides a range of activities, including:

  • Guided instruction in mindfulness meditation
  • Gentle stretching and mindful yoga/movements (adapted to suit all abilities)
  • Group dialogue
  • Exercises to enhance awareness in everyday life
  • Daily home assignments
  • Home practice materials including meditation recordings delivered via an App that also tracks daily progress and a workbook

Participation in MBSR requires an ongoing commitment for the duration of the course. Participants will be asked to attend all classes, including the all day session and to practice daily for around 30 minutes.

If the full eight week course is not suitable for any reason, individual sessions are also available at any time throughout the year.

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MBSR For Chronic Pain

Marelle has a special interest in chronic pain and neuroscience, and so the content of the course will naturally reflect this interest, making it particularly suitable for patients with pain conditions.

There will be a component of up-to-date, neuroscience based pain education as part of the course.

MBSR is now often part of treatment recommendations for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthrits and fibromyalgia. It is widely acknowledged that gentle exercise, social interaction and strategies for reducing stress form an important part of managing any chronic pain condition.