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The history of MBSR and MBCT

From the very beginning there was for me one primary and compelling reason for attempting to bring mindfulness into the mainstream of society. That was to relieve suffering and catalyse greater compassion and wisdom in our lives and culture.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2011


Mindfulness meditation developed out of the Buddhist tradition over 2,500 years ago. These practices have spread across many different continents and cultures and have recently become more mainstream, so that people suffering from stress, illness, trauma or a sense of disconnection are now regularly seeking meditation courses.  MBSR and MBCT are two well researched programs.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

A key contributor to the spread of mindfulness meditation in the West - Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn - is a scientist trained in molecular biology who has a passionate interest in the potential of Buddhist meditation practices and yoga to relieve suffering.

Thirty-five years ago he brought together the scientific method, the Western Insight Vipassana tradition (a form of Theravadan Buddhism) and Hatha yoga to generate the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. In this eight week program, he brought together these understandings in the following skilful ways:  

  • it was grounded in science;
  • it was secular enough to appeal to a wide range of people from all sorts of walks of life;
  • it was intensive enough to make a difference; and
  • it was short enough to be "do-able" in a community setting.


Over the years Jon Kabat-Zinn's original program has now been translated into a range of mindfulness applications for specific issues including: substance addiction, pain, depression, anxiety, eating problems, cancer and for specific contexts such as leadership, workplaces, education, the criminal justice system and for frontline workers such as medical staff, child-protection workers, police personnel and firefighters.

People came to those original mindfulness trainings with Jon with all their stress, hope, curiosity, skepticism, busyness, pain, physical illness, demanding jobs, anxiety, depression, relationship troubles, general disenchantment and unease, and genius - to do an experiment in living with more presence and care over eight weeks and beyond. 

We invite you to come and do that same experiment and see what it can offer you.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Closely based on MBSR, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed by Segal, Williams and Teasdale as an intervention designed to prevent recurrences of major depression.

It integrates the main elements of MBSR with some cognitive therapy components. Although originally designed to prevent depression relapse, applications of MBCT to other problems and disorders are being explored and the research literature shows promising results. It is most relevant:

  • For those who have suffered from recurrent depression or anxiety
  • For those who have been advised to remain on antidepressant/anxiety medication for the rest of their life to prevent a recurrence, as MBCT may be a welcome alternative
  • For those interested in an opportunity to learn a new way of relating to unwanted thoughts and feelings and powerful skills for responding to them in an intentional and skillful manner

If you wish to find out more about how an MBCT course could help you with your anxiety and depression start here.

Find Mindfulness Training near you.