A Mindfulness-based Supervision Model

The model of mindfulness-based supervision offered here is informed by many years of experience and reflection particularly within the Universities of Bangor, Exeter and Oxford as well as the Mindfulness Network. For further information about the nature of mindfulness-based supervision see the following paper: Evans, A., Crane, R., Cooper, L,. Mardula, J., Wilks, J., Surawy, C., Kenny, M., Kuyken, W. (2014). A Framework for Supervision for Mindfulness-Based Teachers: a Space for Embodied Mutual Inquiry; http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-014-0292-4.

Developed by Cindy Cooper, Alison Evans and Jody Mardula 2015


This outer circle represents the container of mindfulness which holds the entire supervision process, imbuing it with the characteristics of mindfulness. The whole of the teaching, training and supervision process is mindfulness-based.

INTENTION: The power and importance of clear Intention is central to mindfulness and to mindfulness supervision. This is the clarity of purpose which we align with and which has a power of its own to help us carry on when difficulties arise. The supervisor holds this clarity of over-all intention for engaging in this work and helps the supervisee become clear about and reconnect with their intentions. As issues arise in supervision and as supervisees develop, recalling and reconnecting with intention is essential.

EMBODIED PRESENCE: Throughout the supervision process the supervisor embodies and models for the supervisee the principles and processes of mindfulness represented through the attitudinal foundations (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). A sense of common humanity is key to this: the supervisor is a human being who lives and relates to difficulties in life (including supervision) using mindfulness. In turn, the supervisee learns to model and embody this for their participants.

INTEGRITY: This is about staying true to the underlying philosophy of mindfulness which comes from basic Buddhist principles to the underpinning theories and understandings of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programmes that developed from a deep understanding of this foundational base. It includes doing no harm. It involves supporting, developing and when necessary challenging the supervisee's competence and ethical adherence to the programme being taught.

COMPASSION / WISDOM: These underpin the entire supervision process. Within the supervision relationship the skilful supervisor balances kindness, empathy and acceptance with the wise, firm courage to challenge, embodying and implicitly communicating both Compassion and the clarity of Wisdom to the supervisee, just as it is communicated in the mindfulness-based programmes.


The inner ring sets the standards that hold the supervision process, and helps holds the ethics and integrity of mindfulness-based programmes in the world.

ATTITUDINAL FOUNDATIONS (Jon Kabt-Zinn 1990): These are the essence of mindfulness-based approaches, distilled from basic Buddhist principles such the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and the Four Noble Truths, and put into words that speak to all of us. These are the attitudes a supervisor brings to supervision and models for the supervisee, so the supervisee can in turn live and model them for their participants. Non-judging; Patience; Beginner's Mind; Acceptance; Trust; Non-striving; Letting go.

CONTRACTS: These are mutually agreed arrangements made between supervisor and supervisee which clarify business arrangements (dates, times, payment, confidentiality, etc.) for structuring the supervision sessions, but also clarify how supervisor and supervisee will work together, including intentions, boundaries and adherence to the Good Practice Guidelines. The overall contract holds the integrity of the supervision sessions, holds the space of the supervisory process and fosters the development of the supervisory relationship. An important part of supervision is periodically re-visiting and clarifying these agreed arrangements and intentions.

GOOD PRACTICE GUIDELINES: These are clear statements of what training, practice and on-going learning is important for Mindfulness-based Teachers and for Mindfulness-based Trainers, as developed and agreed by the UK Network for Mindfulness-based Teacher Training Organisations.

MBI-TAC: This is a detailed outline of the various competencies needed for adherence to good teaching. The MBI:TAC can be an assessment tool, but can also be a valuable and creative training tool in supervision.


These are the 'subject matter' of supervision. This is what the Supervisor needs to know from his or her deep inner experience; what is brought into supervision by Supervisor and/or Supervisee; and what the Supervisee needs to learn and experience personally.

TEACHING SKILLS: Specifics of what teaching skills are explored in supervision vary depending on the stage of the supervisee's development. These may include all the preliminaries needed before beginning to run a course, details of the appropriate curriculum, what to teach, how to lead practices, working with inquiry, making CDs, handouts, timing issues, ways of conveying teaching, resources, feedback on teaching, and on-going development of all the teaching and inquiry skills. The MBI:TAC explores all these skills in great detail.

CONTEXTS: Application context: a clear understanding and knowledge of the specific client or group to which the supervisee is delivering the mindfulness-based programme and the expertise necessary for that specific application, such as MBSR, MBCT, cancer, children, addictions, etc. Organisational context: clarity around the impact of the organisation in which the supervisee works, e.g. prisons, NHS, businesses, schools, etc.

Context may impact on choice of curriculum, on what is possible in terms of course structure and what support is available for the mindfulness-based teacher.

GROUP and INDIVIDUAL PROCESSES: An understanding of the learning and developmental processes of both individuals and groups., bringing clarity to stages of development in the supervisee as well as in their participants, and to group dynamics as it relates to the teaching process and the issues that come up in a class. This is of relevance to the developing relationship between supervisor and supervisee as well as to issues around co-teaching and the inquiry process.

THEORY AND UNDERSTANDING OF MINDFULNESS: Understanding why things are taught and done the way they are in MBSR and MBCT. This includes a broader and deeper understanding of the universal human condition and how the foundational Buddhist principles and psychological principles underpin mindfulness-based programmes and inform all aspects of the way mindfulness is taught. This understanding of theory is both an intellectual knowing and a deeper experiential knowing which develops over time in practice and in the supervisory relationship.

LIFE-LONG MEDITATION AND PRACTICE: This is the source of the deeper experiential knowing that goes beyond an intellectual knowing. Essential to authentic mindfulness supervision and teaching is the understanding that arises from one's own life-long personal meditation practice, both formal and informal, and from weaving this deepening understanding into all aspects of one's life and work. This foundational experiential understanding in the supervisor is essential in supporting and exploring the supervisees' own mindfulness meditation practice and the articulation of mindfulness in their work and life.


This is a reminder that space is essential to mindfulness – to supervision, to inquiry, to our lives. Pausing. Taking a Breathing Space. Opening.


MUTUAL INQUIRY: the relational connection between Supervisor and Supervisee

The Inquiry process is a major necessary skill for the mindfulness-based supervisor, who brings their inquiry skill into the supervision session, both for themselves and for the supervisee. Initially, in order to open to the supervisee, the supervisor must first know his or her own inner experience and be steady and grounded with that, so it begins with self-inquiry. From that embodied groundedness, the supervisor can then open to and inquire into the supervisee's experience – what has happened, what is happening right now, and how the supervisee can relate to that experience in a way that promotes reflection, development and understanding. The supervisor is modelling, embodying and using the same inquiry process which the supervisee will be using with their participants.

Key to this process is the on-going development and establishment of trust between supervisor and supervisee. This requires a strong yet gentle foundation in the supervisor of consistency, reliability, competence, positive intentionality, safety and kindness, all of which spring from the supervisor's mindfulness practice and experience and which in turn allows those same foundational qualities to grow in the supervisee.


Further reading:
Hawkins, P., Shohet, R., Ryde, J., & Wilmot, J. (2012). Supervision in the helping professions. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Shohet, R. (2008). Passionate supervision. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Shohet, R. (2011). Supervision as transformation: A passion for learning. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.