Minding the Gaps 2019: 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

While the programme is yet to be developed, it is likely it will build in the themes below that were explored in the 2018 conference.

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 understanding why particular mindfulness practices may not appropriately match someone’s needs or be triggering of trauma experiences. Importantly, he also frames the individual experience of trauma in a wider context of societal oppression and marginalisation.

Leigh Burrows and Willoughby Britton (who's key research article is available here) are other key authors and researchers in this field.

We hope you can join us.


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

11.35 Presentations and practices

12.30 Lunch

13.30 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 Friday June 26th 2019. Booking will be available here:


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 9.40am. 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. The number for all the different University car-parks in the vicinity is 59323.

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 - 59323 - when you arrive.

Salford Crescent train station has very regular trains and is less than 10 minutes walk from the venue. Trams connect to the local trains at Victoria and Piccadilly train stations.

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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