How Mindfulness came to the UK - part 4 - The First Public Programme

At this time as a psychologist and psychotherapist I was working for Oxfordshire Mind running Day Centres, workshops and counselling clients. I approached the management with my proposal of running Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programmes. MBSR was being researched in a tripartite programme at Cambridge, Bangor [Wales] and Toronto Universities by Professors John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal into the effect of MBSR on patients with recurring depression.

They were Cognitive Behavioural Psychologists who had been successfully using CBT for patients with depression. However there were some patients who continued to have recurring episodes of depression. They went to observe Kabat-Zinn ‘s MBSR programme in Massachusetts and returned to apply the method to their research groups –without significant effect. They went back to the US and participated in the MBSR programme and became meditators.

They adapted the original curriculum to include cognitive behavioural elements and exercises. With their acquired experience and practice their programme became effective with a staggering [statistically] 50% reduction in participants with three or more episodes of depression. Their programme of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy has been accredited by NICE and is widely used in all forms of mental and physical health programmes throughout the UK.

But back in 1999 there were no programmes for the public in the UK. Just the two research trials in Cambridge and Bangor. With the enthusiasm of the convert and years of psychology, of yoga practice, and meditation, I approached the management of Oxfordshire Mind and proposed running an 8-week programme of MBSR under their umbrella.

I taught the first programme of MBSR for the public in the UK in September 1999.The 30 participants were Day Centre clients, members of staff and colleagues. I enrolled Mind staff members Dheresh and Janet, both Cognitive Behavioural therapists to assist me. This first programme and subsequent ones were researched by the Oxford University Department of Psychiatry, the research designed and led by Dr. Ann Hackmann, a long-time friend and colleague.

I established Oxfordshire Mindfulness with a web site brilliantly built by a school boy who went on [with the aid of my website which he took to his interview] to read computer sciences at Cambridge. I taught 8-week self-referral programs of mindfulness for the public, workshops, seminars and one and 3 day retreats. I trained two colleagues, Conroy and Marie and later Alicia to become my co-facilitators and designed a teacher training internship.

Over time I developed my own programme of Mindfulness-Based Stress Management. The participants were people with depression and anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, various chronic illnesses and medical professionals, psychologists, academics, teachers, students, and adults of all backgrounds and ages. This was the beginnings of mindfulness becoming established here in the UK.

Finally, I was bringing to fruition my vision of making mindfulness accessible to all.

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