Minding the Gaps 2018: Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness & Compassion

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Mary Seacole Building G.21; Frederick Road Campus

University of Salford

Frederick Road


United Kingdom

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Trauma Sensitive Approaches to Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion

The standard approaches to teaching mindfulness-based programmes tend to be based on the eight week course format of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). From the research evidence, it is clear the format of MBSR (and its adaptations like MBCT) meet the needs of many individuals.

However, there is a growing appreciation that people with previous or current experiences of trauma may struggle with the way mindfulness practices are taught within the standard curriculum of such courses.

Indeed, while cultivating mindful awareness is often an essential part of trauma recovery, mindfulness practices, if poorly matched to the person practicing them, may themselves be traumatising or re-traumatising.

In particular, body and/or breath focused, close-eyed, static and longer practice forms risk overwhelm for some people with trauma, leading to a variety of negative experiences including panic or shut-down. The experience of overwhelm can also be very shaming if the person feels they are the only one struggling in a group where everyone else appears to be benefiting from a practice (even though others may also be silently struggling).

Some estimates suggest 10-20% of the population may have significant trauma experiences (many more in groups of people with mental health issues and/or in groups of people experiencing marginalisation or oppression). This means most groups we interact with are likely to have members who are dealing with significant traumatic experiences.

One approach is to attempt to screen ‘vulnerable’ people out of mindfulness courses so as to minimise the risk of mindfulness practices triggering trauma – often done through ‘orientation’ interviews and/or questionnaires. In addition to issues around excluding people who may already be marginalised, a difficulty with screening is that it is insensitive and inaccurate, and so screening may exclude people who would find benefit from a course or include people who only discover they are overwhelmed by a type of practice when they are on the course.

An alternative approach is to structure the mindfulness curriculum of a course so that it maximises accessibility for people with trauma experiences and minimises the risk of triggering re-traumatising experiences. This approach is has been the core of the mindfulness teacher training offered at the University of Salford. Over the years, we have come to realise that trauma-sensitive approaches are as effective in helping most people to learn mindfulness, regardless of whether someone has trauma experiences. This leads us to consider that trauma-sensitive mindfulness teaching approaches may become the default way of teaching mindfulness safely and effectively to most populations.

Internationally, a growing number of clinicians and researchers have been highlighting the need for trauma-sensitive approaches to teaching mindfulness. David Treleaven has recently published a landmark book, Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, that powerfully sets out the issues that people who have experienced trauma can face when practicing mindfulness in ways poorly matched to their needs. He offers a framework for safely supporting people through adapting mindfulness appropriately to someone’s needs. Importantly, he also frames the individual experience of trauma in a wider context of societal oppression and marginalisation. Generously, David has kindly offered to launch our symposium with a video he has specially recorded for us.

Leigh Burrows and Willoughby Britton are other key authors and researchers in this field.

These emerging frameworks for working in a trauma-sensitive way inform the key questions we would like to explore in this symposium:

Should the default way mindfulness is offered to all people be based on trauma-sensitive mindfulness approaches?

What would be the clinical and educational rationale for teaching mindfulness in a way that is NOT trauma-sensitive?

We hope you can join us.

Contribute to the Day

We have a number of contributors willing to share their experiences but before confirming the agenda for the day we would welcome you to get in touch if you would like to share your experiences. You are welcome to contact us directly ( or there is space on the booking form to let us know what you would like to contribute.

Possibilities of what you might like to contribute include:

  • Your experience of working with trauma in the context of mindfulness and/or self-compassion - personally or professionally.
  • A mindfulness practice or an approach to teaching you have found meets the needs of a particular group that relates to trauma. This can be very brief.
  • How you have adapted a curriculum to meet the needs of a specific group with respect to trauma.
  • Research you have undertaken around adapting MBIs to be sensitive to trauma.
  • Concerns you have about the issue of making trauma-sensitive adaptations to MBIs.

We will circulate the full programme by mid-June.


The indicative schedule is as follows (details of the presenters etc. to follow in due course):

9.30 arrivals

10.00 Welcome and first practices and presentations

11.15 Break

11.45 Presentations and practices

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Presentations and practices (short comfort break)

16.00 Close

The symposium is part of the student enrichment programme associated with the MSc Advanced Counselling and Psychotherapy Studies, MSc Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, the OneCPD Mindfulness-Based Approaches for CBT module and the BSc (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy (Professional Practice). Priority for booking will therefore be given to University of Salford students booking before May 1st 2018. We have booked a large lecture theatre so we do expect to have enough places for external delegates.

An attendance certificate will be provided for CPD purposes at the end of the day.

We hope that most presenters will be in a position to share their presentations via this webpage after the event.

You may be interested in the presentations from last year's symposium available here.

We aim to hold this event annually; the next date is June 29th 2018. Provisional booking is available here: . We will confirm this event is running in early 2018.

As a single link to future events and resources you can use: which will be active from July 2017.


Please see the University website: The Mary Seacole Building is building 12 on the campus map.

Parking for external delegates is available on-site and costs around £4 a day. Parking is very restricted and you are advised to use public transport as a parking space may not be available.

If you do park on either the Allerton Building car park (accessed off Frederick Road) or the Mary Seacole car park (smaller accessed off the A6) then expect it to be full by 9.30am. There is a pay machine located in the centre of the Allerton car park. There is also a pay-by-phone option with the car park number posted all around each car park. Please note that there is a different number on the different car parks so it is best to only use the phone app option when you arrive.

See for details of the pay-by-app. It is best to download it and set up your payment options at home so all is needed on the day is inputting the car park identification number.

Salford Crescent train station has very regular trains and is less than 10 minutes walk from the venue.

Buses are also very frequent.

Food & Refreshments

This is a free event so you will need to bring your own food and refreshments or use the café and canteen facilities on site or nearby shops.

The nearby Allerton Building is a 3 minute walk from the lecture room. The ground floor of Allerton has a large canteen that serves hot meals and a good salad bar. Hot drinks are available here from machines.

There is a smaller Starbucks cafe also in Allerton as well as a small shop selling sandwiches.

The issue will be queues - these can be so long that in the morning break you may spend the whole time in the queue so it is wise to bring your own liquid refreshment as a back-up.

There are water coolers at the entrance to Mary Seacole and Allerton to fill your own water bottles.


Please book via the EventBrite page for this event.


If you have any queries please contact:

Tim Duerden

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Mary Seacole Building G.21; Frederick Road Campus

University of Salford

Frederick Road


United Kingdom

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