MBCT training in Greece by Foteini Lekka
There were several factors that set the foundations for starting an MBCT training program in Greece.
The worldwide interest in mindfulness, due to research supporting its benefits, has motivated mental health professionals in Greece to learn more about the concept and its applications.
After a ten-year economic crisis followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing interest in Greece for interventions that help people face life’s challenges and befriend the difficult, by cultivating abilities such as resilience, emotional regulation, and equanimity, all of which are enhanced by mindfulness practice.
The spirit and attitudes of mindfulness have a longstanding presence in Greek culture. One cannot think of something more mindful than the invitation by Socrates to “Know Thyself” (Γνώθι σαυτόν), to turn attention inwards and try to understand ourselves.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy foundations in stoicism and the philosophy of Epicurus highlights the ability of every human to discover inner peace in the midst of life’s challenges, by acknowledging the influence of thoughts, the importance of taking a wider perspective and the impermanence of things. All these are cultivated in a systematic way in MBCT.
In this spirit, the Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Studies in Athens, Greece, the largest organization for training psychologists and psychiatrists in cognitive – behavioural therapy, according to the European’s Association for Cognitive Behavioural Therapies training standards, reached the decision to implement training programmes in mindfulness-based interventions.
In partnership with the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation, which holds the vision to make mindfulness accessible worldwide, the first training course in MBCT for Greek mental health professionals was offered. Sharon Hadley was very encouraging and offered generous support in organizing the course, with the help of Leonie Schell. Alison Yiangou was instrumental in facilitating communication.
Nineteen trainees have enrolled in the online course, all licensed psychologists in Greece. Training takes place over two years to meet the time restrictions of working professionals and to make participating in the course more feasible from an economic standpoint.
Professor Ruth Baer and Marie Johansson are the lead trainers and have skilfully introduced the trainees to MBCT. Their knowledge and experience offer many opportunities for deepening the experiential understanding of mindfulness practice and mindfulness-based interventions. In every meeting ample opportunity for learning and experiential understanding is provided, which affects participants both professionally and personally.
I participate in the training as a mentor, my role being to support the trainees in following the course. I am also apprenticing as a trainer. I am honoured and grateful to work with these two skilful teachers and, that I can learn from people that are so dedicated and knowledgeable in MBCT.
As with every path of learning and self-exploration we have come across highs and lows. The highs always provide motivation to continue, the difficulties are always opportunities for collaboration, support, and creativity.
Given that the training is held in English and participants are expected to teach in Greek, one concern has to do with the translation from one language to the other when teaching practices. We address this via a monthly group mentoring session, where trainees discuss theoretical concepts and guide practices in Greek. This offers the opportunity to discuss translation issues and practice experientially in their native language. Additionally, trainees are encouraged to practice in small groups in Greek between mentoring sessions and record themselves to receive feedback.
One other issue is the lack of MBCT bibliography in Greek. In order to support professionals and the public in learning MBCT, we have translated the MBCT-L manual, with the kind permission of Professor Willem Kuyken. In order to raise public awareness in Greece about mindfulness, we are currently translating the book “Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Psychology” by Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken.
We are at the beginning of the second year and new discoveries lie ahead. The enthusiasm is growing more mature, the commitment greater, the support stronger. Learning together and from each other, we are dedicated to bringing an evidence-based intervention for facing life challenges to Greece, in accordance with the vision of the OMF.
Foteini Lekka is a clinical psychologist, (MSc, PhD), MBCT Teacher and CBT therapist. She works in Athens as Chief of the Social Service in the Bank of Greece. She also teaches and supervises psychologists and psychiatrists in cognitive-behavioural therapy at the Association for Cognitive-Behavioural Studies in Athens, Greece. She offers MBCT courses in the Institute of Behaviour Research and Therapy. She is particularly interested in mindfulness-based interventions, and their applications in clinical populations, especially when combined with CBT.