What deﬁnes mindfulness-based programs? The
warp and the weft
R. S. Crane
*, J. Brewer
, C. Feldman
, J. Kabat-Zinn
, S. Santorelli
, J. M. G. Williams
Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, School of Psychology, Bangor University, Brigantia Building, Gwynedd, UK
Department of Medicine, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester,
Yale University School of Medicine
Freelance Teacher and Writer, Totnes, Devon, UK
Oxford Mindfulness Centre, University Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, UK
There has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) such as Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. This is demonstrated in increased research, implementa-
tion of MBPs in healthcare, educational, criminal justice and workplace settings, and in mainstream interest. For the sus-
tainable development of the ﬁeld there is a need to articulate a deﬁnition of what an MBP is and what it is not. This
paper provides a framework to deﬁne the essential characteristics of the family of MBPs originating from the parent pro-
gram MBSR, and the processes which inform adaptations of MBPs for different populations or contexts. The framework
addresses the essential characteristics of the program and of teacher. MBPs: are informed by theories and practices that
draw from a conﬂuence of contemplative traditions, science, and the major disciplines of medicine, psychology and edu-
cation; underpinned by a model of human experience which addresses the causes of human distress and the pathways to
relieving it; develop a new relationship with experience characterized by present moment focus, decentering and an
approach orientation; catalyze the development of qualities such as joy, compassion, wisdom, equanimity and greater
attentional, emotional and behavioral self-regulation, and engage participants in a sustained intensive training in mind-
fulness meditation practice, in an experiential inquiry-based learning process and in exercises to develop understanding.
The paper’s aim is to support clarity, which will in turn support the systematic development of MBP research, and the
integrity of the ﬁeld during the process of implementation in the mainstream.
Received 7 June 2016; Revised 23 November 2016; Accepted 23 November 2016
Key words: Fidelity, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based program, mindfulness-based stress
There has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness-
based programs (MBPs) such as Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based
Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in the last two decades.
MBSR has accrued a robust evidence base in improv-
ing mental health outcomes in those with chronic
physical health problems (Bohlmeijer et al. 2010).
MBCT is an adaptation developed to teach those at
high risk of depressive relapse skills to stay well and
has been shown to be effective (Kuyken et al. 2016).
There are multiple other MBPs with varying levels of
research evidence at each stage of the research journey
(Dimidjian & Segal, 2015).
For the sustainable development of the ﬁeld there is
a need to pause and address some fundamental ques-
tions. Dimidjian & Segal (2015) analyzed the status of
the extant evidence using the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) Stage Model (Onken et al. 2014). This is
a model of behavioral intervention development com-
posed of six stages: basic science (Stage 0); intervention
generation, reﬁnement, modiﬁcation, and adaptation
and pilot testing (Stage I); traditional efﬁcacy testing
(Stage II); efﬁcacy testing with real-world providers
(Stage III); effectiveness research (Stage IV) and; dis-
semination and implementation research (Stage V).
The mapping of the MBP evidence base onto this
model by Dimidjian & Segal clariﬁes that the evidence
is heavily saturated in Stage I, lightly represented in
Stages 0 and II, and that to date there is minimal
research in Stages III, IV and V. Overall, in their ana-
lysis they identify signiﬁcant strengths (e.g. breadth
of clinical problems and populations targeted), and
signiﬁcant weaknesses (e.g. the need for an integrated
* Address for correspondence: R. S. Crane, Ph.D., M.A., Centre for
Mindfulness Research and Practice, School of Psychology, Bangor
University, Brigantia Building, Gwynedd LL57 2AS, UK.
Psychological Medicine, Page 1 of 10. © Cambridge University Press 2016
and systematic approach to core research questions
across all stages of the research from basic through to
implementation science). In this editorial we focus on
a critical underpinning issue throughout the Stage
Model –namely the ﬁdelity/integrity of the interven-
tion itself. Fidelity is central to all stages but has par-
ticular salience at Stages I and V. Stage I involves the
development of the intervention, which requires great
clarity about for whom it is intended, and a theoretical
exposition of what mechanisms are being targeted. It
also requires careful consideration of what clinician
training and supervision is required to deliver the
intervention effectively. Stage V addresses implemen-
tation, which raises similar issues about what key
aspects of ﬁdelity need to be maintained when imple-
menting in real world settings.
Given the proliferation of MBP development and
research, there is a need to re-clarify the core ingredi-
ents of mindfulness-based programs, and the implica-
tions this has for professional training, supervision
and implementation. This clarity is important for the
ﬁeld so that existing research can be meaningfully
interpreted, future research uses agreed deﬁnitions
and established protocols, MBP teachers are trained
appropriately, and the general public are assured that
programs titles accurately describe what is delivered.
MBPs in context
MBSR was developed as an education and training
vehicle for people with chronic health problems and
those suffering from the mounting demands associated
with psychological and emotional stress, to learn to
relate in new ways to life challenges (Kabat-Zinn,
2013). Other programs based upon the foundational
approach and structure of MBSR have since been devel-
oped with particular aims across a broad range of set-
tings, including hospitals, schools and prisons, and are
gaining interest from policy makers (Ryan, 2013;
Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group, 2015).
MBP developments are nested within a wider context
of empirical developments within psychology, medicine,
health care and education which include ‘mindful-
ness-informed’programs such as Acceptance and
Commitment Therapy (Hayes et al. 2011), Compassion
Focused Therapy (Gilbert, 2009), Dialectical Behavioral
Therapy (Linehan, 1993), Mindful Self Compassion
(Neff & Germer, 2013) and developments in the ﬁeld of
Positive Psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi,
2000). These mindfulness-informed developments are
part of the third wave of empirically tested psychothera-
pies (ﬁrst wave being behavioral therapy; second wave
being cognitive behavioral therapy). Third wave
approaches have a decreased emphasis on controlling
internal experience, and an increased emphasis on
themes such as acceptance, metacognition and how peo-
ple relate to their experiences.Mindfulness-informed pro-
grams share several underpinning theoretical ideas with
MBPs, and many include some mindfulness meditation
practice in their approach. However, a distinctive feature
of MBPs is that systematic and sustained training in for-
mal and informal mindfulness meditation practices (for
both teacher and participants) is central both to the thera-
peutic approach and underpinning theoretical model.
They are based on mindfulness.
It should also be noted that other MBPs exist alongside
MBSR/MBCT which also share this emphasis on theprac-
tice of mindfulness-meditation as a central pedagogical
component. An important example are ‘second gener-
ation’mindfulness-based interventions which are openly
spiritual in nature, make the linkage to the Buddhist
teachingsexplicit withinthe pedagogy and aremore trad-
itional in the manner in which they construct and teach
mindfulness (e.g. VanGordon et al. 2015).These programs
are at an earlierstage of development and research is now
underway. However, the boundary to the analysis in this
paper are what have retrospectively become termed
‘ﬁrst-generation’MBPs –i.e. MBSR and MBCT (which
represent the strongest evidence within the ﬁeld), and
the range of programs which have developed out of
these (e.g. Bowen et al. 2009; Duncan & Bardacke, 2010;
Kristeller et al. 2012). These ﬁrst-generation MBPs, while
drawing aspects of their underpinning models and prac-
tices from aspects of Buddhism, aim to clearly
re-contextualize both the program content and theoretical
underpinnings within the mainstream. That is to say, the
aim is to ensure MBPs are based in science and contem-
porary approaches to managing mental and physical
health and supporting well-being; that they are suitable
for delivery in mainstream public institutions across a
range of settings and cultures; and that they are max-
imally accessible to people with diverse values and reli-
It is also important to note that while MBPs have
been developed for particular issues such as stress
and depression, there are other empirically supported
approaches for such difﬁculties. There is as yet no com-
pelling evidence for speciﬁcity of hypothesized
mechanisms or differential outcomes. This may be an
artifact of the many shared components between
these approaches, or it may simply be that this work
has not yet been done. Our hope is that the clarity
we aim to offer in this editorial will support measure-
ment, mechanisms, and mediators research, as a recent
editorial has argued is needed (Davidson, 2016).
Development trajectory for MBPs
In the context of high interest and rapid proliferation
Dimidjian & Segal (2015) identify several key
2R. S. Crane et al.
challenges for the next phase of research developments.
This editorial focuses on one of these challenges –
research and practice issues in the arena of MBP ﬁdelity.
If these challenges are not carefully addressed they will
undermine the developing science as well as the quality
and integrity of implementation in routine practice.
Mindfulness training in various forms is rapidly being
applied within different contexts and populations, and
morphing into multiple curriculums of differing lengths
and teaching methods. Mindfulness can be intuitively
appealing to teachers and participants. There is conse-
quently a grassroots spread of practice into populations
and contexts, which at times is ahead of the evidence.
The word mindfulness has become a word conveying
a multitude of meanings and practices. This is a confus-
ing context within which to systematically build the sci-
ence and the practice integrity of MBPs.
The essential and variable elements of
We use the metaphor of ‘warp and weft’to represent
the ‘fabric’of MBPs. In weaving, the warp is the
term for the ﬁxed thread that runs vertically through
the cloth, while the weft is the term for the transverse
thread that makes each tapestry unique. The warp is
the thread that is ﬁxed when the loom is set up,
while the weft varies in texture and color. The essen-
tial, constant and integral threads that deﬁne an MBP
regardless of population or context make up the
‘warp’; they are what make it a mindfulness-based pro-
gram. Each adapted MBP then introduces a unique
‘weft’that seeks to target the training to a particular
population and/or context. Within each aspect (pro-
gram and teacher) we examine what is warp (i.e. essen-
tial to an MBP), and what is weft (i.e. will vary
depending on context and/or population) (Table 1).
The warp elements of the framework are anchored
within the program forms of MBSR and MBCT. We
suggest that the framework we offer can provide
some unifying clarity for the wider MBP ﬁeld on
what an MBP is and is not.
The essential (‘warp’) elements of MBPs
(1) Is informed by theories and practices that draw from a
conﬂuence of contemplative traditions, science, and the
major disciplines of medicine, psychology and education
The key inﬂuences that have shaped MBPs are:
Contemplative mindfulness practices. MBPs are under-
pinned by theories about the human mind-body drawn
from aspects of early Buddhist psychology, which articu-
late the ways in which people can come to recognize uni-
versal habitual psychological patterns that create and
maintain distress. This philosophy and psychology is
nuanced and complex. It includes a wide array of teach-
ings and practices found across the breadth of both
Buddhist and other traditions, which are beyond the
scope of this paper (Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2013).
However, there is high level consensus on common fea-
tures found within the cultivation of mindfulness. These
include that people can learn that habitual reactive pat-
terns stem from unhelpful habits of the mind; that fear,
denial and discrepancy-based thinking create and
exacerbate distress; and that skillful ways of relating to
experience can be developed through awareness, wise
discernment and practice which offer the potential for
(moments of) freedom from reactivity (Gethin, 1998).
MBPs address some universal features of human
experience using mindfulness practices as a vehicle
for a systematic training of the mind in the service of
developing greater awareness of self and others, and
thus, greater understanding. It is therefore not surpris-
ing that mindfulness practices can be found in many of
the world’s contemplative wisdom traditions. MBPs
draw on aspects of these traditions while leaving
behind their religious, esoteric and mystical elements.
Crucially they are presented in an invitational way,
asking people to use the mindfulness practices in
whatever way best supports their aims and aspirations.
The practices and frameworks employed within MBPs
are thus re-contextualized for implementation within
mainstream settings by ensuring that they are deliv-
ered in inclusive and culturally appropriate ways.
Science. The development of MBPs is grounded in
developments in theory, cognitive neuroscience (Tang
et al. 2015), translational research (Strauman &
Merrill, 2004; Meadows et al. 2014) and evidence-based
practice across a range of disciplines. Empirical evi-
dence informs the theoretical models underpinning
MBP’s aims and innovations, and continues to reﬁne
understanding of what works best, at what time, for
which group of participants (Davidson, 2016).
Medicine. MBSR, theoriginal MBP, wasdeveloped within
a medical framework and culture, as a form of partici-
patory medicine in which patients are challenged to dis-
cover and draw upon their own resources for learning,
healing, and transformation (Kabat‐Zinn, 2003).
Psychology. MBPs were introduced and incorporated
into the ﬁeld of psychology through the development
of MBCT (Segal et al. 2013). Psychological theory and
research now guides the development of many MBPs
(Dimidjian & Segal, 2015). Indeed, the ﬁeld of cognitive
What deﬁnes mindfulness-based programs? 3
science has to a large extent taken over the detailed
work of investigating the precise mechanisms by
which MBPs alleviate distress and enable ﬂourishing.
The process involves mapping theories and empirical
understanding across a range of disciplines.
Education. The pedagogical processes employed in
MBPs draw on educational principles that are experi-
ential, interactive, participatory, student-centred and
relationship-centred (Santorelli, 2000).
(2) Is underpinned by a model of human experience which
addresses the causes of human distress and the pathways
to relieving it
The conﬂuence described in the previous section is
supported by a model of distress that applies across
MBPs that explains certain facets of how human dis-
tress is created and maintained, and how mindfulness
training deals with these maintaining factors, and thus
alleviates distress and supports mental health and
well-being e.g. (Kabat-Zinn, 2013; Segal et al. 2013). It
draws on aspects of cognitive science (e.g. attention
and executive control and decentering Barnard &
Teasdale, 1991) and trans-diagnostic work (e.g. repeti-
tive thought and experiential avoidance Dudley et al.
2011). This emerging model is being clariﬁed and
developed as empirical understanding is built
(Brewer et al. 2013; Chiesa et al. 2013;Guet al. 2015;
Van der Velden et al. 2015). The ﬁeld is young and
emergent, and the underpinning frameworks are the
subject of debate and empirical investigation.
(3) Develops a new relationship with experience character-
ized by present moment focus, decentering, and an
An underpinning premise of the MBP model is the
understanding that how people relate and respond to
various forms of distress (rather than the distress itself)
lies at the core of many problems and disorders. It is
this that determines both the capacity and the extent
to which distress can be relieved and transformed.
The training aims to enable participants to recognize
habitual, conditioned modes of reacting and make a
radical shift in their relationship to their thoughts,
Table 1. The essential (warp) and ﬂexible (weft) ingredients of MBPs
1. Is informed by theories and practices that draw from a
conﬂuence of contemplative traditions, science, and the
major disciplines of medicine, psychology and education
1. The core essential curriculum elements are integrated with
adapted curriculum elements, and tailored to speciﬁc contexts
2. Is underpinned by a model of human experience which
addresses the causes of human distress and the pathways to
2. Variations in program structure, length and delivery are
formatted to ﬁt the population and context
3. Develops a new relationship with experience characterized
by present moment focus, decentering and an approach
4. Supports the development of greater attentional, emotional
and behavioral self-regulation, as well as positive qualities
such as compassion, wisdom, equanimity.
5. Engages the participant in a sustained intensive training in
mindfulness meditation practice, in an experiential
inquiry-based learning process and in exercises to develop
insight and understanding
1. Has particular competencies which enable the effective
delivery of the MBP
1. Has knowledge, experience and professional training related
to the specialist populations that the mindfulness-based
course will be delivered to
2. Has the capacity to embody the qualities and attitudes of
mindfulness within the process of the teaching
2. Has knowledge of relevant underlying theoretical processes
which underpin the teaching for particular contexts or
3. Has engaged in appropriate training and commits to
ongoing good practice
4. Is part of a participatory learning process with their students,
clients or patients
4R. S. Crane et al.
feelings and body sensations, as well as to outer cir-
cumstances. The shift in relationship is based on
what is called decentering (Segal et al. 2013)or
re-perceiving (Shapiro et al. 2006), in which the MBP
participant is trained to attend to thoughts and feelings
as mental events by noticing how they come and go in
the mind and how each has consequences in the very
next moment. For example, a person who is rushing
to a meeting, might come to realize that in addition
to the stress of being late they are compounding the
stress by the thought ‘if I’m late everybody will think
I am not coping’. Whereas in an approach such as cog-
nitive therapy, a person might be taught to challenge
such a thought, in MBPs the emphasis is on seeing it
as a mental event, noticing its effects on the body,
and the way it creates further feelings and thoughts
that were not part of the original situation. Gradually
people come to see that their thoughts are not necessar-
ily valid representations of reality.
(4) Supports the development of greater attentional, emo-
tional and behavioral self-regulation, as well as positive
qualities such as compassion, wisdom, equanimity
Attentional training within MBPs offers a founda-
tion for the attitudinal dimensions of mindfulness to
emerge. MBPs seek to support the ability to meet
experience with curiosity, equanimity and compassion
(Feldman & Kuyken, 2011). An experiential under-
standing develops that pain is an inherent part of
human experience and is ever changing. An orienta-
tion of mind characterized by curiosity, patience and
equanimity supports the development of compassion
and wisdom. There is an intention to cultivate an
internal climate of friendliness towards experience –
whether it be pleasant or unpleasant. This supports a
shift away from habitually battling with experience.
MBPs also aim to cultivate positive qualities such as
joy, and the ability to recognize and savour nourishing
and pleasant experiences.
(5) Engages the participant in a sustained intensive train-
ing in mindfulness meditation practice, in an experien-
tial inquiry-based learning process, and in exercises to
develop insight and understanding
Direct experiential, systematic and intensive engage-
ment in formal and informal mindfulness meditation
practices is foundational to teaching/learning in
MBPs. The training develops familiarity with and
understanding of the mind and body, and appreciation
that attention can be regulated, ﬁne-tuned, and opti-
mized through training. Rather like physical training
regimes, the training progresses developmentally and
sequentially throughout the program.
The integrity and ﬁdelity of each MBP is maintained
by ensuring that all the curriculum elements for the
particular program are included as intended (adher-
ence) and that curriculum elements are not added
which do not belong to the particular program form
(differentiation) (Crane et al. 2013). It is critical that
the curriculum employed and the particular MBP title
match each other. If there is divergence from an estab-
lished curriculum, teaching structure or process then a
new title for the adaptation should be employed, and
research should clearly identify the adapted curriculum
guide used, and if any checks on ﬁdelity and adherence
Adherence to program form is supported by proto-
cols for each MBP (e.g. see Santorelli et al. 2017 and
Stahl & Goldstein, 2010, for MBSR curriculum guides,
and Segal et al. 2013, for the MBCT curriculum guide).
Other MBPs have published guides which specify their
particular curriculum adaptations. MBP curriculums
vary in terms of number and duration of sessions
and time commitments for home practice. For example,
MBSR is scheduled over eight weekly sessions lasting
2.5 h with 40 min of guided mindfulness meditation
home practice per day. MBCT is the same but with
2 h long sessions. There is not scope to fully list the cur-
riculum elements and therapeutic techniques which, if
included, would be regarded as outside the model for
a particular ﬁrst generation MBP (the differentiation
aspect of program integrity). However, examples
include: thought challenging and collecting evidence
for and against the truth for thoughts (which is part
of cognitive therapy); an orientation of problem solv-
ing or ﬁxing; different sorts of meditation practices
(e.g. mantra meditation); talking about the detailed
history of participants; and an emphasis on relaxation
MBPs typically include mindfulness training via
three formal mindfulness meditation practices –the
body scan, mindful movement and sitting meditation.
Practices are assigned as daily home practice with the
support of recorded guidance. Throughout the pro-
gram participants are also encouraged to generalize
through informal practice by bringing awareness in
particular ways to everyday activities.
MBPs include learning experiences built around the
formal mindfulness meditation training. These include
engaging in an individual and collective investigative
inquiry to develop skills in recognizing direct experi-
ences (i.e. thoughts, emotions and sensations), patterns
of relating to experience, and the wider implications of
the understandings that emerge. This externalized
teacher- led interactional process in class becomes a
representation of the work that the MBP participants
begin to engage in within themselves, whereby the
investigative process becomes ‘internalized’. Foci for
inquiry include participants’direct experience of medi-
tation practices, and exploration of pleasant and
What deﬁnes mindfulness-based programs? 5
unpleasant experiences which has implications for rec-
ognizing established patterns of reactivity and the pos-
sibility of responding differently. The focus will
depend on the context/population, but MBPs particu-
larly investigate the territory of difﬁcult, unwanted
experiences –stress, depression, physical pain, etc.
Participants are invited to explore ‘How am I experien-
cing and relating to these difﬁculties physically, emo-
tionally and psychologically? What possibilities are
there for stepping out of habitual aversive reactive pat-
terns into responding with greater awareness and
agency?’Each MBP employs particular exercises to
facilitate these investigations.
(1) Has particular competencies which enable the effective
delivery of the MBP
MBP teachers have particular ‘explicit’or ‘visible’teaching
competencies. These competencies are described and can
be assessed using the Mindfulness-Based Interventions:
Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC), which has
shown promising evidence as a reliable and valid tool
(Crane et al. 2012,2013,2016). The six teaching competence
domains within the MBI:TAC are coverage, pacing and
organization of the session curriculum; speciﬁcinterper-
sonal relational skills; skilful guiding of formal mindful-
ness meditation practices; speciﬁc methodologies for
conveying the course themes through interactive inquiry,
group dialog and didactic teaching; and effective holding
of the group teaching/learning environment. These require
particular tailored training experiences to develop (Crane
et al. 2010).
(2) Has the capacity to embody the qualities and attitudes of
mindfulness within the process of the teaching
MBP teachers have in common a sustained commit-
ment to cultivating mindfulness through regular daily
formal and informal mindfulness practices in everyday
life. The way in which mindfulness practice manifests
in the life of the teacher and is tangibly sensed in the
MBP classroom is termed ‘embodiment’. The theoret-
ical model hypothesizing how MBP training has its
effects includes embodiment as a critical factor in enab-
ling participants to move towards experiential (rather
than conceptual) knowing of mindfulness (Teasdale
et al. 2002). Embodiment is a natural outcome of the
teacher’s intention to mindfully inhabit their experi-
ence in everyday life and in the MBP classroom, to
whatever degree possible in any given moment. It is
neither a striving for a particular state, nor a contriv-
ance to artiﬁcially fabricate a particular persona,
mask or appearance. Through their own personal
mindfulness practice, teachers naturally come to
inhabit the qualities associated with mindfulness (i.e.
non-striving, non-judging, allowing), and the under-
standings and ethics underpinning the practices. The
embodied practice element of ethics within MBPs are
thus emergent and cultivated through the practice
rather than being mandated. The practice of mindful-
ness enables the participant to try out the possibility
of eliciting kindness, openness, and patience toward
immediate experience, whether the experience is per-
ceived as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral (Grossman,
2015). MBP teacher training aims to cultivate the cap-
acity in teachers to communicate mindfulness through
the process as much as through the content of the
teaching, by integrating training in formal and infor-
mal mindfulness practices into the other aspects of
the teacher education and training curriculum.
(3) Has engaged in appropriate training and commits to
ongoing good practice
MBP teachers have by necessity engaged in appropri-
ate education and training to build and deepen their
teaching competence (Crane et al. 2010,2012;
Kabat-Zinn et al. 2011;Marxet al. 2015). Training
involves foundational experiential engagement with
mindfulness practice and with the particular MBP cur-
riculum the teacher training is embedded within, prelim-
inary teacher training to build core skills, knowledge
and attitudes, and then further training to enable the
practitioner to reach the threshold of competence.
Within some training programmes, the training journey
culminates in an assessment of teaching competence
using the MBI:TAC (Crane et al. 2016), conducted by trai-
ners who have been trained to reliably use the tool.
Teachers then commit to ongoing good professional
practice in line with consensually agreed good
practice standards and guidelines (UK Network for
Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations,
2012; Santorelli, 2014). Two key elements of good prac-
tice are supervision (Evans et al. 2014), and ongoing
engagement with a personal mindfulness practice
including periodic periods of intensive mindfulness
practice in a residential setting. As the work of ﬁrst
generation MBPs is becoming more established in the
mainstream, more opportunities are opening up for
residential mindfulness intensives within a thoroughly
mainstream context (e.g. Mindfulness Network CIC,
In the UK there is a national listing of MBP teachers
who have undertaken training to minimum good prac-
tice level, and are adhering to ongoing good practice
(UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training
Organisations, 2016). In the USA there is an MBSR
Registry for certiﬁed teachers (Centre for Mindfulness
in Medicine Health Care and Society, 2016). The organ-
ization of governance within this emerging ﬁeld to
6R. S. Crane et al.
support the general public to access well prepared and
qualiﬁed MBP teachers is underway.
MBP teachers operate within professional ethical
codes anchored within their root profession (i.e. medi-
cine, clinical psychology, teaching, etc.) (Baer, 2015),
and appropriate to the ethos and ethics of the main-
stream public institution within which they are imple-
menting (Crane, 2016).
(4) Is part of a participatory learning process with their stu-
dents, clients or patients
Delivery of MBPs is usually in a group context
which supports perspective taking and the transition
from personal story into investigation of common
pathways which lead to distress. MBP teachers
embed themselves within this investigation. They are
in a particular form of relationship with their partici-
pants which is underpinned by recognition of our
‘common humanity’(shared human experience)
(Neff, 2011), and thus the mutual nature of the learning
process (Santorelli, 2000).
Integration of tailored elements into adapted
mindfulness-meditation based programs
As the ﬁeld has developed, new MBPs have woven in a
weft that aims to make the mindfulness framework
and practices more accessible and useful for particular
populations and in varying contexts. However it
remains an empirical question for each new adaptation
whether it improves the accessibility and usefulness of
MBPs, and each adaptation needs to commit to build-
ing its own evidence base.
Adaptations are typically of three kinds:
(1) Adaptations informed by theoretical frameworks or
models that are particular to a new population or
setting. For example, MBCT for recurrent depres-
sion is oriented around a cognitive model of
depressive relapse and how mindfulness can free
the mind from engrained patterns of depressive
rumination (Teasdale & Chaskalson, 2011).
(2) Adaptations to the program that make it more access-
ible, acceptable and potent for a population. For
example, Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness
Training employs mindful eating practices (Kristeller
& Wolever, 2011); mindful parenting programs use
parenting activities and examples (Bogels et al. 2010).
(3) Adaptations to the program that embed MBPs in
aparticular context or setting.Forexample,MBSR
is an outpatient program that can be offered in
hospital outpatient settings; mindfulness in
schools programs are adapted for delivery within
school curricula (Kuyken et al. 2013); and mind-
fulness in organizations are adapted so as be
accessible to and within businesses (Chaskalson,
We next identify the program and teacher character-
istics that characterize the weft of MBPs, namely the
ways they are adapted (see Table 1).
Adapted MBP considerations
(1) The core essential curriculum elements are integrated
with adapted curriculum elements, and tailored to
speciﬁc contexts and populations
It is important that there is explicit clarity regarding
the core intentions of the MBP for the speciﬁc context
and targeted participants. MBP developers should
base the development in a clearly articulated aim and
intention regarding the beneﬁt and relevance of the
program for a particular context and/or population
(Teasdale et al. 2003; Dobkin et al. 2013). The adapta-
tion needs to be grounded in a theoretically informed
analysis of the speciﬁc mechanisms inﬂuencing dis-
tress or life themes in the target population and an ana-
lysis of the contextual issues involved in offering an
MBP in a particular setting (e.g. schools, business, the
military). This analysis is based on an understanding
that general vulnerability (characteristics of the
human condition that predispose us to distress), and
speciﬁc vulnerabilities (particular patterns, traits or
tendencies) co-exist (Williams, 2008). Adapted MBPs
are tailored towards recognition of a speciﬁc vulner-
ability or life circumstance that characterizes a particu-
lar population (e.g. the easily triggered negative
thinking of people vulnerable to recurrent depression).
How do these issues present themselves? What are
their characteristics? How are they triggered and main-
tained? The MBP developers then need to develop and
seamlessly integrate the adapted ‘weft’elements into
the program to ensure that the curriculum skillfully
maps onto these processes. They need to pose the ques-
tion: ‘What are the particular teaching processes and
speciﬁc curriculum elements that may be required to
support the mindfulness-based learning experience in
this speciﬁc population/context?’Program develop-
ment should include recognition of and a skillful
response to any tensions or challenges that need to
be considered in a particular context/population (for
example, participants who may become suicidal
Williams et al. 2015), so that there is an assurance
that there is clearly an added value of the adaptation
over existing MBPs. Dimidjian & Segal (2015) caution
that the rapid proliferation of new potential contexts
and populations risks neglecting the importance of
foundational speciﬁcation of clear intervention targets
and mediating processes of change on which subse-
quent research can build.
What deﬁnes mindfulness-based programs? 7
(2) Variations in program structure, length and delivery are
formatted to ﬁt the population and context
The program form may also be changed to enable
accessibility and tailoring for particular populations
(e.g. shorter, but more sessions for chronic fatigue;
half-day sessions, at fortnightly intervals to enable
working people traveling from a distance to attend;
individual delivery to those who cannot attend a
group), and contexts (e.g. short sessions at lunch time
for workplace mindfulness courses). There is increas-
ing interest in digital delivery methods such as smart-
phone apps (Brewer et al. 2013), and some early
evidence that these and other forms of lower intensity
and self-help programs may be beneﬁcial. However,
more research is needed (Cavanagh et al. 2014).
Critically, it is important that new adaptations mak-
ing use of new formats are given appropriate titles to
clearly distinguish them from established programs.
Such careful description and delineation is key to
maintain the health and vitality of the emerging MBP
ﬁeld. Without it, the scientiﬁc literature will inevitably
conﬂate studies of programs that may not be character-
istic of the core structure, form, dose and delivery
method of a particular MBP but represent themselves
as such, and thus confound our ability to interpret
the emerging scientiﬁc exploration of MBPs. It is also
key to ensuring the public are given clear information
on what program they are attending, what training
their MBP teacher has had, and what they are (and
are not) trained to teach.
Teacher considerations for adapted programs
In addition to all the ‘warp’elements of training and
ongoing adherence to good practice, teachers who are
teaching particular curriculums, populations, or in par-
ticular contexts need congruent particular trainings. For
example, if the teacher is delivering an MBP in a speciﬁc
clinical setting, particular clinical training and experi-
ence in that speciﬁc domain is required. Teachers also
need explicit training in the theoretical principles that
underpin the adaptation so that they can effectively con-
vey this essential element in their teaching.
This editorial sets out a framework to deﬁne the essen-
tial (warp) and variant (weft) ingredients of MBPs.
Clarity and precision are needed both to maintain the
integrity of the original programs and to support
ongoing research into new programs, innovations, and
developments. The current dialog between modern sci-
ence and ancient contemplative wisdom traditions
represents an extraordinary conﬂuence of two epistem-
ologies, interacting, learning from and informing one
another. This conﬂuence is proving extraordinarily cre-
ative –there is an upsurge of mindfulness-informed and
mindfulness-based programs and approaches across
medicine, psychology, and psychotherapy, and beyond,
into business and education. There are also inherent ten-
sions to navigate in the process of integrating paradig-
matically different disciplines (Harrington & Dunne,
The MBP ﬁeld is at an early stage of development.
The evidence supporting their efﬁcacy in the treatment
of physical and psychological health challenges in
some areas is strong and building (e.g. see recent
meta-analyses and reviews Carlson, 2012; Khoury
et al. 2013; Kuyken et al. 2016). However, in many
areas, the landscape can be best characterized as prom-
ising or as yet unexplored. For the ﬁeld to realize its
potential to maximally impact individual and societal
health and well-being, there is a continued need for
high quality innovation and research to investigate
mechanisms, effectiveness, and implementation.
Clarity regarding ﬁdelity to program form and sub-
stance is an essential underpinning to ongoing research
and practice development within this nascent and
highly promising ﬁeld.
The paper was written without external funding. We
are grateful to Trish Bartley, Cindy Cooper, Susannah
Crump and Petra Meibert who provided comments
on the manuscript.
Declaration of Interest
R.C., J.K.Z., C.F., S.S., and J.M.G.W. receive royalties
from mindfulness books they have authored. W.K.
is Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and
Principal Investigator of several NIHR and Wellcome
Trust research projects. J.M.G.W., C.F. and J.K.Z. receive
freelance payments for training workshops and presen-
tations related to mindfulness. R.C. is Director of the
Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in
Bangor, and a non-salaried Director of a not for proﬁt
company providing services for mindfulness-based tea-
chers. S.S. is Executive Director and Director of the
MBSR Clinic, and J.B. the Director of Research at the
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and
Society, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
J.K.Z. and J.M.G.W. were previous directors of the
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and
Society, University of Massachusetts Medical School
and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre respectively. J.K.Z.
receives royalties from mindfulness-based books and
guided meditation programs he has authored, and is
the owner of a web-based outlet for sale of the guided
8R. S. Crane et al.
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