, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 170–178 | Cite as

The Role of the Teacher in Mindfulness-Based Approaches: A Qualitative Study

  • Joël R. van Aalderen
  • Walter J. Breukers
  • Rob P. B. Reuzel
  • Anne E. M. Speckens


In the last decade, mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to be effective interventions for both psychiatric disorders and chronic and severe physical conditions, such as cancer. The literature consistently stresses the importance of mindfulness teachers having an ongoing experiential engagement with mindfulness meditation practice in addition to theoretical knowledge in order to be effective as a teacher. However, there has been little systematic investigation of the role of the mindfulness teacher. This study explores the role of the mindfulness-based teacher from the perspective of both participant and teacher. Three qualitative techniques are used to obtain information: in-depth interviews of mindfulness training participants (n = 10) and teachers (n = 9); a focus group consisting of mindfulness teachers (n = 6); and observation by participation in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy course (MBCT). These three sources of information enabled us to use triangulation to come to our conclusions. A thematic analysis approach was used to derive central themes from the interviews. Analyses resulted in four overarching themes characterising the teacher-participant relationship in MBCT: embodiment, empowerment, non-reactivity and peer support. The embodiment of the method by the teacher, the teaching of an empowering way of dealing with problems and group processes are mentioned as key factors. Group processes seem to be underestimated by the teachers in our study. Further quantitative research is necessary to validate the results of this explorative study.


Mindfulness Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy MBCT Teacher-participant relationship Qualitative research 



The authors are grateful for the financial support of Fonds Psychische Gezondheid (grant number 2005 6028) and the support of Prof. H.P. Barendregt's Spinoza price. Finally, we would like to thank all the participants and trainers who participated in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joël R. van Aalderen
    • 1
  • Walter J. Breukers
    • 2
  • Rob P. B. Reuzel
    • 2
  • Anne E. M. Speckens
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryRadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and HTARadboud University Nijmegen Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands

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