This two-year part-time course offers experienced clinicians and practitioners from a range of professional backgrounds a unique opportunity to develop in-depth specialist knowledge and skills in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Our aim is to foster a community of practitioners with the expertise to deliver high quality MBCT to patients, and to contribute to the development and dissemination of this innovative approach to mental and physical healthcare.
The course is offered by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the Oxford University Department of Psychiatry, in collaboration with the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education. Successful completion of the course leads to an award of a Master of Studies by the University of Oxford.
Oxford has been internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in cognitive therapy (CT) research, treatment development and dissemination for nearly 20 years. It has an unusually rich concentration of acknowledged experts in CT and a first class reputation for providing high quality training courses and clinical supervision. A growing team of Oxford clinicians and researchers now specialise in MBCT, and have successfully developed and delivered a range of MBCT training events, including introductory workshops, masterclasses, residential training retreats, a foundational training course, and a Master of Studies degree course. The Masters programme was initiated by Professor Mark Williams, one of the founders of MBCT, and the team includes Professor William Kuyken, a leading figure in the development of MBCT and the current Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
MBCT was developed by John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal as a manualised, class-based skills training programme for people with recurrent depression. It integrates elements of cognitive therapy with intensive practice of mindfulness meditation, with the aim of helping people to relate differently to pain and distress. Randomised clinical trials support its efficacy in preventing relapse in people who have experienced repeated episodes of depression, and it is now recommended in the guidelines of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a cost-effective treatment of choice for this increasingly common problem.
Because its central principles are transdiagnostic, MBCT holds promise as a helpful intervention in a wide range of settings and with a broad range of problem areas, both physical and emotional. Preliminary research suggests that mindfulness-based approaches can be helpful to patients with problems as diverse as chronic pain, psoriasis, cancer, health anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, stress, generalised anxiety disorder, psychosis and bipolar disorder where there is a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
MBCT has attracted a great deal of interest within the mental health and behavioural medicine communities. However opportunities to extend preliminary learning and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for becoming aneffective teacher are limited. This means that practitioners wishing to use the approach with their clients have great difficulty in accessing appropriate training and supervision. The Oxford course is designed to address this need. It offers an opportunity for in-depth learning, and aims to create a body of clinicians with the knowledge and skills they require in order to teach, develop and disseminate MBCT effectively.
The course is taught, part-time, over two years, and is organised in nine three-day teaching blocks (held in Oxford) and three residential training retreats (four days and seven days in Year I and seven days in Year II). In addition to the taught component, students will need to set aside 6-7 hours per week for private study, personal practice of MBCT, completion of written assignments. Participants on courses with similar demands confirms that this time is crucial to completing the course successfully.
On successful completion of the taught components of the course and associated assignments, the award of the Master's degree is made by the University of Oxford, under the aegis of its Continuing Education Board.
The course addresses the theoretical basis of MBCT, including relevant aspects of cognitive and clinical psychology, as well as aspects of Buddhist psychology and philosophy on which MBCT draws. It also provides opportunities for students to develop the practical skills they need in order to translate knowledge and understanding into competent MBCT practice, that is, students are expected to develop for themselves the understanding and skills they will be teaching to patients. (This is analogous to the requirement for experience of personal therapy in the education of psychodynamic psychotherapists).
The course covers four main topic areas:
- Theory, including: relevant cognitive science (e.g. attention, memory, judgement, metacognition, executive function); clinical theory (e.g. cognitive theories of the development and maintenance of emotional disorder and the principles underlying MBCT); relevant aspects of Buddhist psychology and philosophy and their contribution to MBCT
- Research related to the ongoing development of MBCT, and investigating the areas of theory outlined above
- Clinical applications in a range of problem areas, for example, depression, chronic fatigue, pain, psychosis and borderline personality disorder
- Practice including the development of personal experience of mindfulness meditation, the capacity to relate this experience to theory and research, and the skills needed to instruct patients/clients in MBCT, drawing on relevant theory, research and clinical literature
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