MSC Teacher Training

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MSC has been in development since 2010, and teacher training started in the USA and Europe in 2014. A MSC training manual is also scheduled for publication in late 2016 (Guilford Press). The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion will coordinate teacher training in the USA in collaboration with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness; in Europe through Arbor Seminars in Freiburg, Germany; the Centrum for Mindfulness in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; in the UK through The Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University; and in Spain through AEMind (Asociación Española de Mindfulness y Compasión). Please direct inquiries about Teacher Training to [email protected].

MSC Teacher Training is an intensive, 6-day, residential program facilitated by a team of senior MSC teachers. Half of the training is a condensed, experiential review of the MSC program, integrating short talks, meditation, group exercises, discussion, and periods of silence. The other half of the program focuses on how to teach the core themes and skills of each session in simulated, guided, small groups. Participants will be provided with the essential materials to teach MSC. 

Learning Objectives

  • Deepen one’s personal practice of responding to difficult emotions with mindfulness and compassion
  • Understand the current theory and research on self-compassion
  • Identify the core themes and practices presented in each of the eight group sessions of MSC, plus the retreat day
  • Develop the skills necessary to facilitate MSC, including how to guide meditation, teach from each participant’s direct experience, and facilitate group cohesion
  • Identify obstacles to mindful self-compassion practice and strategies for overcoming them
  • Embody a mindful and compassionate stance toward students of MSC as they confront challenges to their practice

Target Audience

This 6-day intensive is intended for those who wish to teach MSC, those who would like to integrate mindfulness and self-compassion in their ongoing professional activities (i.e., psychotherapy, coaching, nursing, teaching, etc.), and individuals who have a professional interest in the field (i.e., researchers, administrators, etc.).

Participation Requirements

Applicants for MSC Teacher Training course are expected to have to have previously taken MSC as a participant at least 6 months before undertaking teacher training; have an established personal meditation and self-compassion practice; have completed at least one 5-day silent, teacher-led meditation retreat (ideally more than two months prior to the Teacher Training course); and have experience teaching meditation in group settings.  Graduates of the Teacher Training are also expected to attend consultation sessions for at least one 8-week MSC, either by co-facilitating with a certified MSC teacher or through online consultation.

Participation in this teacher training is subject to approval by the teacher trainers. Please see the Teacher Prerequisites page for more information.

Teaching MSC

MSC is ideally led by two trained teachers. This model allows teachers to help each other monitor group process, meet the needs of individual participants, and deliver program content. Groups with fewer than 12 members may only require one teacher.

MSC is designed for the general public and is not group therapy; it’s a program for building the skill of self-compassion. Nonetheless, self-compassion can sometimes activate strong emotions, including emotional distress that has lingered since childhood. We therefore recommend that if neither of the instructors have mental health training, they might consider inviting a clinician to participate as an assistant or an engaged observer. We realize that some groups have members with relatively minor emotional needs, so please use good judgment regarding what is needed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for everyone, including yourself.

The MSC Teacher Training program is designed to develop instructors of the 8-week MSC. Most teachers find they need to lead at least 4 eight-week groups before they feel comfortable in the teaching role. Whenever possible, new teachers should co-teach or consult with more experienced instructors. MSC teachers are especially encouraged to acquire additional experience and consultation before altering the form of the program, such as offering MSC in the more demanding 5-day intensive format. The Center for MSC has a structure for teacher trainees and trained teachers to network and provide collaboration, consultation, and support. 

Participant Guidelines

Our ability to teach others depends largely on discovering the power of self-compassion in our own lives. Since the core principles and practices of MSC are taught primarily through direct experience, participants are encouraged to engage in the program primarily for personal development. Ample time will also be allocated for professional dialogue and the practical details of teaching.

MSC is a journey—an adventure in self-discovery and self-kindness. Loving-kindness and self-compassion training helps us soothe and comfort ourselves as it paradoxically reveals emotional distress we may have been unconsciously holding inside, often for many years. Therefore, some difficult emotions are likely to surface as we grow in our capacity to embrace them. This is intrinsic to the process of emotional transformation through self-compassion.

Self-compassion thrives in an environment of safety, support, privacy, individual responsibility, and a common commitment to presence and compassion. Self-compassion practice should also be easy and enjoyable. The teacher trainers are dedicated to creating such a learning atmosphere for all participants and their future students.

The following reading is highly recommended, but not required, before the teacher training:
Neff, Kristin: Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself (new title, same book!)
Germer, Christopher: The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

Needs Assessment

Over the past few years, mindfulness has become mainstream in the general population and is being increasingly integrated into professional practice (e.g., mental health, medical care, education, business, law). As the demand grows, the demand for quality professional training in these practices and techniques is growing each year. Self-compassion is at the growth edge of mindfulness. It’s a “trending health term” (Reader’s Digest, 2012) and an area of burgeoning research. Self-compassion is the emotional heart of mindfulness. Due to the impressive scientific evidence for the connection between self-compassion and emotional wellbeing, and the need for explicit training in self-compassion, the MSC Teacher Training is offered in the US by the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness