Professional Development Grant Experience
Dr. Barbara Shulman, Psychiatrist and Co-Medical Director, BC Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital | October 13, 2023
About the Author
Dr. Barbara Shulman is a psychiatrist with the Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Teacher in Training at the Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute at the University of California San Diego. In addition to her clinical work, she has been involved in research focusing on mindfulness-based group therapies to treat women with perinatal depression and anxiety.
About My Experience
I was honored and excited when I found out that I was awarded the BC Children's Hospital Centre for Mindfulness Professional Development Grant. Sometime before that I had been wondering about doing mindfulness teacher training, but I had not got further than thought; I am grateful that the grant got me started on my pathway towards becoming a certified mindfulness teacher.
Although the mindfulness groups I co-lead at Reproductive Mental Health are MBCT-based, I decided to do formal training in MBSR. It felt important for me to better understand the all-important building blocks of MBSR, created by Jon Kabat-Zin. I chose the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness for my MBSR teacher training both because the courses looked excellent and because the online course times fit into my schedule.
As a pre-requisite to the teacher training I had to do a silent retreat. I attended a five-day retreat that was online, organized through Brown University. I had never done a silent retreat that lasted for more than eight hours, and I had never done an online one, so this was a new experience. Although I wish I could say that I had a beginner’s mind going into it, the truth is that I actually did not; I just could not understand how effective an online silent retreat could be. Very soon into the experience I saw how wrong my predictions had been. The retreat was incredible. My teachers were really experienced, and somehow created a sense of warmth within the silent Zoom community. I surprised myself that I was able to sit and meditate for longer and longer periods of time over the course of the five days. At the end I felt rejuvenated, and curious about the teacher training I was about to begin.
After the retreat I took two 10 week online courses through UCSD. The students were mostly American but there were a few from Japan and Vietnam, all of whom contributed towards a rich learning environment. The classes were partly experiential; every week we had to lead a mindfulness exercise, either in small breakout rooms or in the larger group. For example one week we might be asked to teach the class about Stress Physiology, or to lead the group in mindful movement. Our teachers taught us different ways of leading the Inquiry after an exercise and we had the chance to practice doing this with each other. The supportive atmosphere and the continuous exposure resulted in my gradually becoming more comfortable teaching different aspects of MBSR. Although I am still in the early stages of teacher training, I have been trying to utilize the skills I have learned when with my individual patients and also when I am co-leading groups. I feel that the teachings have really helped me stay more present and more empathic with patients, including during more challenging encounters.
I am very grateful for all of the learning experiences I have had thanks to the BC Children's Hospital Centre for Mindfulness Professional Development Grant.