Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

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Penn State Health Mindfulness

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What is MBSR?

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR is an eight-week, online-only course that teaches participants the principles of mindfulness and how to apply these principles to deal more effectively with stress and the demands of daily life.

The MBSR program was originally developed in the late 1970s at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. The program consists of body awareness exercises, meditation, gentle yoga and inquiry (guided discussion), along with daily formal and informal home practices. MBSR is taught in a secular manner.

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Participants are required to attend the following:

  • An orientation session
  • Eight weekly classes, each two and a half to three hours long
  • An all-day (seven-hour) Saturday silent retreat between class six and seven

During the orientation session, participants will meet with the course instructors. The instructors will provide a detailed course overview, outlining course expectations as well as benefits and potential risks of participation. There will also be time for participants to ask questions and to complete a brief one-on-one interview with one of the instructors.

MBSR Why MBSR Basic Content


Being mindful begins right where you are. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, is an eight-week guided course for bringing healthy choices to life, being offered to the community through Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine.

Everyone experiences the effects of stress. In some situations, like during a formal exam or interview, stress can help people to focus and perform better. In others, particularly over extended periods of time, stress can compromise health and threaten someone’s sense of wellbeing.

The body is designed to respond to stress by solving the challenges that come its way. Stress mobilizes the body’s natural fight, flight or freeze response, which may include physical changes such as an increased heart rate or more rapid breathing. Over time, especially when someone finds themselves being constantly stressed, the body’s natural defense and coping mechanisms may weaken and lead someone to not feel well or to become sick.

Mindfulness is the capacity to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment. Mindfulness, as taught through the MBSR course, offers a potential solution to reduce stress and its potential harmful effects.

Participants are saying...

"MBSR is a community of acceptance and belonging... the "me" becomes "we"... "we" happily celebrate our life successes; "we" humbly share our life burdens. It is loving others beyond one's self while loving one's self to allow extension of this love to others. Even if you are in practice by yourself at any given time, you are never alone."

What Does a Typical MBSR Class Look Like?

The first half of each MBSR class provides an extended period of practice, incorporating different forms of guided meditation as well as gentle standing and lying-down yoga. The second half of each class is dedicated to group discussion (inquiry) – exploring participants’ direct experiences with the formal and informal practices being taught during each class as well as their experiences from daily home practice (45 to 60 minutes). Each week’s practices build upon each of the previous weeks’ lessons.

MBSR courses are generally offered in the fall, winter and spring each year.

Questions? Contact us to find out more

Participants are saying...

“MBSR was, and is, a godsend. The leadership, group interaction and training in how to be ‘mindful’ as a way of becoming more aware of my stressors and my ability to deal with them have made a tremendous difference.”


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MBSR Instructors

Timothy D. Riley, MD, is an associate professor and the associate vice chair for wellness Department of Family and Community Medicine. He is passionate about caring for each patient as a whole person, teaching the next generation of physicians, and creating a workplace where clinicians can thrive. After learning how mindfulness can impact provider well-being and quality of care at the University of Rochester, he became a qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher through the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness.

Holly Socolow, MHS, has been offering mindfulness programs in the Lancaster/Hershey/Harrisburg area since 2006. She was the MBSR facilitator for the Women's Health Research study for overweight women completed at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and published in August 2017. Socolow participated in professional training under the direction of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. She is a qualified MBSR teacher through the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts.

Participants are saying...

"By practicing mindfulness… I developed a picture in my imagination of a bubble surrounding me, separating me from those difficult situations and the accompanying emotions… I have been able to use that distance between myself and my emotions to think creatively about new responses to difficult situations."

Michael Hayes, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry and member of Penn State College of Medicine's faculty and of Penn State Cancer Institute. Dr. Hayes is a licensed psychologist with 28 years of professional experience. His clinical practice is dedicated to caring for patients diagnosed with cancer as well as patients undergoing bone marrow or solid organ transplantation. He also serves as the psychosocial services coordinator for the Penn State Cancer Institute's cancer committee. Dr. Hayes is a University of Massachusetts School of Medicine Center for Mindfulness-qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher and on the pathway to become a CFM-certified MBSR teacher.

Michelle "Shelly" Ungemach, MSW, LSW, is a licensed social worker and the psychosocial program development coordinator at Penn State Health Children's Hospital. Ungemach has provided opportunities to learn and practice mindfulness meditation in the area for the past nine years. She is a qualified MBSR teacher through the University of California San Diego Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute.

Elizabeth Bhagat has been a registered Vascular Ultrasound Technologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center since 2005. As a healthcare worker, Bhagat has experienced the ways in which Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction can help with workplace stress, burnout and compassion fatigue. Additionally, as a parent of school-aged children, she appreciates the potential positive impact of Mindfulness on interpersonal relationships and family life. She is a qualified MBSR teacher through the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.

Mindfulness MBSR upcoming classes

Upcoming Sessions

Live, online fall Monday evening sessions

These sessions will take place 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, Sept. 16 to Nov. 4, 2024, with orientation on Sept. 9 and a retreat on Saturday, Oct. 26.

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Continuing Education Credits

Psychology (APA)

Continuing Education credits have been approved for licensed psychologists. Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Full attendance at the sessions and evaluation of each individual session attended is required to receive CE credit for psychologists. Partial credit will not be awarded. Late arrivals or early departures will preclude awarding of CE credits.


Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is approved as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

Please note that no continuing education credits are offered for the first half of the all-day silent retreat.