Mindfulness Based Programs (MBPs) are evidence based mind-body programs that train participants in the cultivation of mindfulness in order to support wellbeing, address the causes of human distress, and offer pathways to relieving suffering. They are informed by theories and practices from contemplative traditions, science, medicine, psychology and education. The Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness (MAM) offers the following MBPs:
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
- Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
- Mindful Self Compassion (MSC)
- Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP)
- iRest Yoga Nidra (iRest)
- Unified Mindfulness (UM)
MAM offers a handy MBP Matching Questionnaire to help guide you and here is a video explaining the various programs to assist you in deciding which is best for you:
The purpose of MBPs is to help participants develop a new relationship with experience characterized by present moment focus, de-centering, and an approach (rather than an avoidance) orientation. This supports the development of improved attentional, emotional and behavioral self-regulation, as well as positive qualities such as compassion, wisdom, and equanimity. Participants are engaged in sustained and intensive training in mindfulness practices in an experiential inquiry-based learning process, including exercises to develop insight and understanding. The elements of the curriculum are adapted to fit specific populations and contexts.
MBPs are designed to complement traditional medical and psychological treatments, not to replace them. They are therapeutic skill-building courses, but they are not therapy. Professionals who provide MBPs are required to fulfill specific training requirements including coursework, hands on experience, and mentoring.
MBCT is an 8-week program derived from MBSR that is designed to prevent relapse in individuals with chronic depression. MBCT combines cognitive behavior therapy strategies with mindfulness attitudes and practices to help participants develop a new relationship with ruminative thought and difficult emotions. Research indicates a significant reduction in risk of relapse of recurrent depression with an efficacy that’s equal to long-term use of antidepressant medication. It is also correlated with decreased anxiety, rumination, insomnia, and tension as well as increases in compassion, concentration, resilience, and optimism. MBCT teachers must be licensed mental health professionals.
MBSR is an 8-week program that incorporates mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga to assist people with pain and a range of conditions and life issues that were initially difficult to treat in a hospital setting. Developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970s by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, MBSR provides intensive training in mindfulness awareness practices to address issues that arise from dealing with chronic illness, pain and everyday life stresses.
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)
MSC is an 8-week program that combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion. Participants learn how to tame the harsh, inner self-critic and approach themselves with kindness and care. Research has shown that self-compassion greatly enhances emotional wellbeing, boosts happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and can even help maintain healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise.
MBRP is an 8-week program derived from MBCT for individuals in recovery from addictive behaviors. It is intended as an aftercare program integrating mindfulness practices and principles with cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention to maintain treatment gains and support wellbeing in recovery. MBRP helps participants cultivate mindful awareness of triggers, destructive habitual patterns, and “automatic” reactions in order to make space for wise choices. Research indicates MBRP participants experienced significantly reduced relapse risk, as well as lower rates of depression, anxiety, and craving. MBRP teachers must have an advanced degree in a mental health field.
iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation (iRest)
iRest (short for Integrative Restoration) is an 8-week program teaching deep relaxation and meditative inquiry. It is currently being utilized in VA hospitals, military bases, hospitals and clinics, hospice, homeless shelters, community programs, and schools. Research has shown that iRest helps reduce symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and chemical dependency while increasing health, resiliency, and well-being. iRest is endorsed by the US Army Surgeon General and Defense Centers of Excellence as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
Unified Mindfulness (UM)
Unified Mindfulness (UM) is a secular system of meditation characterized by clear terminology and rigorous precision around concepts and techniques. Meditation teacher, Shinzen Young, has revised and perfected his techniques over the past 50 years with an eye toward a scientific understanding and explanation of global meditation practices. As a result of this research and precision, the process of learning mindfulness has been systemized in a way that makes it accessible to anyone interested. Sometimes called “paint-by-numbers” mindfulness, Shinzen has created a set of algorithms that makes practicing mindfulness clear and practical. The UM system is used by leading institutions like Harvard and Carnegie Mellon for their research on meditation.