A Teacher’s Reflections on Finishing an 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Program

I’ve been teaching MBCT courses for just over 10 years now.  Honestly, it is a true honour and privilege to be able to run these groups.  I’m always so amazed when I get to the end of the 8 weeks, and, without fail, after hearing the participants’ main take-aways, I always walk away thinking and knowing “this program really works”.   

I remind myself about that because delivering the program is not without its challenges. Going through the 8 weeks, there are inevitable difficulties that arise as they’re learning how to build concentration skills, insight into thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, and learning to turn towards difficulties.  MBCT is about seeing into the habits of thinking, feeling and behaving and loosening those old, automatic habits.  It’s not easy because we have deep grooves in our brains which lead us to those same old ways of distracting, numbing, blaming, becoming cynical, staying frustrated, shutting down, tuning out, minimizing our own needs and staying stuck on autopilot in this busy life in which we live.   

As these difficulties and challenges arise in our meditations in class, and as we discuss the obstacles that they faced each week, I “hold” those difficulties for the group and try my best to embody the mindfulness principles, so that they, too, can relate to their own challenges with the same skills and attitudes.   

Each class is a wonderful opportunity for me to truly put my own mindfulness skills into practice.  When I feel challenged, I go to my heart and let my answer flow from that space.  As I guide and facilitate the groups, I need to constantly be fully present, staying grounded in my body, noticing what’s coming up in me, sensing and reflecting what’s coming up in the participants, and skillfully working through it together.   

Week 2 can be challenging when people are beginning to realize that it’s not actually about learning how to ‘relax’.  Week 3 can be challenging as the ‘honeymoon’ effect is wearing off and they realize it’s going to take a significant amount of effort, commitment and perseverance.  Week 4 can be rough for some as we are learning to see how our minds and bodies react with aversion when something in the moment is unpleasant or unwanted and we want to immediately push it away, have some other moment, judge and get mad at ourselves or others, or just get stuck in restlessness or doubt.  Week 5 can be confusing and triggering for some when we are learning how to ‘allow and let be’ because at first glance, why the heck would we want to allow unpleasant thoughts, feelings, body sensations or situations to be there. We are hardwired to want to fix and change these things immediately.  Understandably, resistance and confusion comes up in this session. Week 6 is also triggering as we explore how ‘thoughts are not facts’ when participants are often so fused and overidentified with their thoughts, interpretations and (often unhelpful) ‘storylines’ in their minds. 

That being said, in the end, as we meet these difficulties together in a safe and supportive environment that I try my very best to create, I see how truly empowering MBCT can be.  Clients not only learn to understand the habits of their minds, but they also take away practical tools to manage inevitable stressors, and the accompanying thoughts, feelings and body sensations, much more effectively. I always say that MBCT is like ‘black belt for the mind’.  

In terms of who is drawn to Mindfulness Training programs, there’s a huge range – for example, we’ve had school principals, Fortune 500 executives, teachers, therapists, physicians, paramedics, healthcare professionals and accountants.  

It’s wonderful and confirming to hear comments from our graduates.