The University of Aberdeen has launched the first course in Scotland teaching the leading non-pharmaceutical treatment for depression.
In September 48 students will begin a new part-time MSc in Mindfulness, a practice which NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) has recommended for the treatment of recurrent depression since 2004.
It can also be used to relieve stress and chronic pain and is increasingly being used in many other fields such as education, the prison service, social work, corporate management, business and sport
Mindfulness – a practice originating from the East and which can be traced back thousands of years – is a practical method of developing an understanding of how the mind works and can provide an insight into how dysfunctional thinking can lead to illness.
It is based on Buddhist meditation techniques, but a contemporary training in mindfulness is entirely secular
Only three universities – Oxford, Exeter and Bangor – currently offer courses in mindfulness and Aberdeen is the first in Scotland.
According to the UK charity the Mental Health Foundation, mindfulness based cognitive therapy is proven to cut relapse rates in half for those who experience more than two episodes of depression1.
Recurrent depression is extremely common, with 50% of sufferers having more than one episode. After the second and third episode, the risk of relapse rises even higher to 70% and then 90%2.
The Mental Health Foundation produced the Mindfulness report earlier this year which found that a large majority of GPs (72%) believe mindfulness meditation would help their patients who have mental health problems while nearly all (93%) think there should be greater availability of other effective treatments for recurrent depression, in addition to medication3.
Graeme Nixon, programme director of the MSC in Mindfulness at the University of Aberdeen, said: “The University of Aberdeen’s new Masters degree programme in Mindfulness has been developed in order to meet the growing interest in mindfulness in many professions, in particular health and education.
“This is the first degree programme of its kind in Scotland and it is the first in the world to offer a training that integrates compassion practices in mindfulness training.
“We have been inundated with applications and the course is full with 48 students enrolled to start in September. They range from health professionals including consultants, doctors, GPs, nurses, to teachers and sports coaches.”
The three-year programme combines face-to-face and e-learning and students will also undertake study at Samye Ling Tibetan Centre and on the Holy Isle in the firth of Clyde.
Mr Nixon added: “In modern society we are well trained to use our minds to accomplish what we want, but there is little training in how we relate to our thought processes. So we can find ourselves been sucked into negative mind patterns over and over again, and in so doing we may feed a downward spiral into anxiety and depression.
“Mindfulness training is a way of bringing awareness to the moment by moment experience of living, realising that in each moment we have a choice as to what we think and how we act. It affords us the skill of standing back from the flow of our thoughts and emotions, thereby enabling us to choose what we focus our energy on and what we leave alone.
“Mindfulness has a range of applications. It is used in the health service, where it is prescribed as a treatment for depressive relapse, as well as in the treatment of stress and chronic pain. However, mindfulness is increasingly being used in many other fields such as education, the prison service, social work, corporate management, business and sport, where the benefits of a more considered, less reactive approach to ourselves, our life situations and other people are being increasingly recognised.”
Those enrolling on the MSc are required to have a professional context in which they can use their knowledge and practical skills and in the third year of the course students will carry out a work-based project as the basis for a dissertation. The programme includes the key elements of the MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy)curriculums.
Applicants for the course have come from as far afield as Spain, Ireland, Poland and the Netherlands and the School of Education is now taking applicants for 2011.
For more information please visit http://www.abdn.ac.uk/education/programmes/mindfulness/mindfulness