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Mindful : December 2018
were interested in assessing teaching as part of their respective master’s and research pro- grams, came together to collaborate by pooling expertise and experience.” Trainers from the three universities painstakingly refined the standards and created what they called the Mindfulness-Based Interventions Teaching Assessment Criteria, or MBI:TAC. “The MBI:TAC provides an agreed national bench- mark for teaching competence—students graduating from these programs have all been assessed against the same criteria and judged to be competent or above,” according to Crane. Today MBI:TAC is widely used by many teach- ing programs in the UK, the US, and other parts of the world. “ Between the criteria we’ve been using, and the MBI:TAC, we feel pretty clear that this process is rigorous and deep and affords the teacher and us a moment in time that says, yes, you’ve done this training, you’ve done this work, we see competence, we see a conveyance of the essence of the program,” Koerbel says. In order to help consumers connect with qualified instructors, several online registries of vetted mindfulness teachers and mindfulness prog rams have been launched. The UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers, for example, a collaboration between 23 training organiza- tions, offers a listing of teachers who meet good practice g uidelines. A website called “Your Guide To Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy,” at mbct.com—created by Zindel Segal, Mark Wil- liams, and John Teasdale—provides a variety of resources for people interested in MBCT, includ- ing qualified prog rams and teachers. All of which raises the question of why, if most experts agree on the need for widely accepted standards for teachers and many In ways that are difficult to define—let alone measure—teachers must embody compassion, nonjudgmental attention, and other qualities of mindfulness. groups are already drafting them, the launch of the IMTA met such fierce criticism. Part of the answer is that there are so many individuals and organizations already doing the hard work of testing requirements for teachers. Woods, one of the experts who signed the open letter criticizing the IMTA, explains, “The field of mindfulness-based interventions has been looking and struggling with how to come to an understanding about standardization for years. The IMTA didn’t take time to talk to people who were actively involved in mindfulness-based programs. They reached out to some people, but then they didn’t actively involve many of them. That was a mistake. They didn’t acknowledge that the field of MBI programs was already deeply involved in conversation about standard- izing the field.” To make matters worse, critics say, the IMTA’s mission and mandate were unclear, at least at the beginning, creating confusion rather than clarifying the issues of credentialing teachers and accrediting mindfulness programs. “ Were they setting themselves up as a train- ing body, or a clearinghouse, or an adjudicating body?” says Monteiro. “It wasn’t at all clear, and those three roles are very different.” In their defense, the founders of the IMTA acknowledge that the organization is evolving to meet the needs of the profession. “Obviously, this is a work in progress,” says Phillips. “It’s collab- orative. We recognize that there are different cre- dentialing programs out there based on specific curriculums or specific institutions. We want to go beyond that, to create an independent and collaborative organization that can provide stan- dards that aren’t based on a single curriculum or institution. We’re still learning a lot. But I’m con- vinced that the IMTA can act as an aggregator of the knowledge, because we’re not committed to a particular curriculum or institution.” Lofty ambitions, many challenges As the uproar over the IMTA reveals, the effort to craft universally accepted standards and a single certification for mindfulness teacher training is likely to take time, hard work, and considerable cooperation. Interviews with lead- ers from around the world highlighted some of the most pressing challenges that lie ahead: → 66 mindful December 2018 meditation