Wildmind Meditation News
Aug 18, 2010
University offers course on Buddhist depression therapy
The first course in Scotland using a non-pharmaceutical technique to treat depression has been launched at Aberdeen University.
Doctors, nurses, psychotherapists and teachers have signed up for the part time MSc in mindfulness, a revolutionary Buddhist-based non-medication approach to dealing with the condition.
Mindfulness is based on Buddhist meditation but can also be taught in a secular way. Proponents say it is a practical method of understanding how the mind works and can provide insights into how dysfunctional thinking can lead to illness. It can also be used to treat stress and chronic pain.
Graeme Nixon, programme director of the course, 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.”
Mr Nixon said: “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, and nurses, to teachers and sports coaches.”
The course has been created with the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Dumfriesshire.
Karma Choden, a South African former lawyer who is now a monk at Samye Ling, will be one of the teachers.
He said: “Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention to one’s mind and one’s experience in a way that is non-judgemental and kind.
“So much of the time our mind just spins off in different directions. So much of our time is wasted.
“Mindfulness is training our mind to be centred so we can be more calm and effective in what we do in our life.”
Only three other UK universities currently offer courses in mindfulness: Oxford, Exeter and Bangor.
Dr Alistair Wilson, a consultant psychiatrist at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, who has been an advisor to the Aberdeen course, said: “There has been a profound shift in attitudes in the last ten years towards mindfulness based cognitive therapy.
“There are very rigorous studies that show a reduction in recurrence rates with people with depression.”
He said short courses in mindfulness therapy were now among the treatments for depression recognised by SIGN, the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.
Rob Nairn, a former professor of criminology and law who is the director of the Samye Ling section of the course, said: “What I am trying to do is give the students a fairly thorough grounding and understanding of mindfulness with the object of them being able to take it into other areas of life.
“Mindfulness is the essence of the Buddhist teachings but we are teaching it in a secular way.
“It takes the teaching and allows people to use it in other areas – without people having to take up Buddhist beliefs.”
A report earlier this year from the Mental Health Foundation said that 72 per cent of GPs believed mindfulness and meditation could help patients with recurrent mental health problems while 93 per cent believed there should be treatments other than medication available to patients with recurrent depression.
By Claire Smith