Past Leaders

Dr. Chris Irons Dr. Rick Hanson Dr. Scott Kellog Kristine Janson
Dr. Ken Goss Dr. Chris Germer Vidyamala Burch Gary Hennessey Dr. Kristin Neff

After injuring her spine and having surgery in her teens, Vidyamala Burchdiscovered meditation at age 25, when she was taught a visualization exercise by a hospital chaplain. This stimulated a great curiosity about the power of the mind and heart as a tool to harness and help rehabilitate herself. 

Vidyamala has spent the next 29 years following this deep curiosity.  Mindfulness and compassion - or kindly awareness - have emerged as central to her quest. She moved from New Zealand to the United Kingdom in 1990 and spent 5 years living in a Buddhist retreat centre gaining intensive experience of mindfulness and compassion meditations.  During this time she was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order. After settling in Manchester, in 2000 she received a grant from the Millennium Commission to develop secular mindfulness-based courses for others living with pain and illness. This formed the basis for Breathworks, established as a Community Interest Company in 2004. There are now Breathworks’ trainers in fifteen countries. In 2008 Vidyamala wrote Living well with Pain and Illness – the mindful way to free yourself from suffering, now translated into 10 languages. In 2013 she co-authored her second book Mindfulness for Health – a practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring well-being with Danny Penman. Vidyamala trains regularly in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Christopher Germer is a clinical psychologist in private practice, specializing in mindfulness and compassion-based treatment. He has been integrating the principles and practices of meditation into psychotherapy since 1978. Dr. Germer is a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and a founding member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy.  He lectures internationally on mindfulness and self-compassion, is a co-editor of the professionally acclaimed book Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-editor of  Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice. His website can be found here
Dr Ken Goss is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Head of Coventry Eating Disorders Service in the UK.  He has over 20 years experience of working with people with eating difficulties.  Dr Goss is a regular speaker at National and International conferences, and teaches on several Clinical Psychology Training Courses.  

Dr Goss has worked closely with Professor Paul Gilbert (OBE), the originator of the Compassion Focused approach, for almost 20 years.  He is a Board Member of and trainer for the Compassionate Mind Foundation  and has pioneered the use of Compassion Focused Therapy for Eating Disorders. He is the author of The Compassionate Mind Approach to Beating Over-Eating, the first book to outline this approach in people with disordered eating (this is also published in the USA as The Compassionate Mind-Guide to Ending Overeating: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to Overcome Bingeing & Disordered Eating).
Dr Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (in 13 languages), Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 25 languages), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (in 13 languages), and Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and on the Advisory Board of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.
An authority on self-directed neuroplasticity, Dr. Hanson’s work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, CBC, FoxBusiness, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and O Magazine, and his articles have appeared in Tricycle Magazine, Insight Journal, and Inquiring Mind. He has several audio programs with Sounds True, he edits the Wise Brain Bulletin, and his weekly e-newsletter – Just One Thing – has over 100,000 subscribers, and also appears on Huffington Post,Psychology Today, and other major websites.

A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA, Dr. Hanson has been a trustee of Saybrook University, and he served on the board of Spirit Rock Meditation Center for nine years, and was President of the Board of FamilyWorks, a community agency. He began meditating in 1974, trained in several traditions, and leads a weekly meditation gathering in San Rafael, California. For more information, please see his full profile at

The Art of Reflection, a practical guide on how to reflect and contemplate in the context of Buddhist practice. For the last few years he has been leading reflection retreats and workshops in the UK, Sweden and Germany.
In 2003 he started working with Vidyamala - going on to co-foundBreathworks as a Community Interest Company (CIC), along with Sona Fricker and Vidyamala, in 2004. Since then he has been Head of Training, focussing particularly on developing the teacher training programme running in the UK. He regularly trains health professionals and others in mindfulness as a health intervention.

Dr Chris Ironsis a Clinical Psychologist and academic working for the NHS in East London, with a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Sheffield. He studied for his PhD under Professor Paul Gilbert at the Mental Health Research Unit in Derby, researching the role of attachment and social rank in adolescent depression and anxiety. He has done specialist training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but primarily practices Compassion Focused Therapy. He has a particular interest in exploring the role of compassion in alleviating suffering and improving wellbeing, and is a board member of the Compassionate Mind Foundation. He has recently published an introductory text on Depression for Palgrave Insights in Psychology series, and is one of the directors of Balanced Minds, a compassion focused psychological service and resource based in London, UK.
Kristine Janson has been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for over ten years, of which she spent four years working and practicing meditation on Holy Isle. She has trained extensively with Rob Nairn and has been teaching mindfulness in Holland and Iceland, as well as in various places in the UK as a tutor for the Mindfulness Association. Kristine is also a qualified art therapist, having earned her BA (Hons) degree in 2004 at the Hogeschool Leiden in Holland.
Dr. Scott Kellogg received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center, and is presently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University. He was previously on the faculties of The Rockefeller University, the Yale University School of Medicine, and the Program in Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers ollege/Columbia University.

Dr. Kellogg is the past President of the Division on Addictions of the New York State Psychological Association (2011, 2005, and 2001) and a co-director of the Harm Reduction and Mental Health Project at New York University. He has trained in both Schema Therapy and Gestalt Therapy, and he is currently a psychotherapist and a supervisor at the Schema Therapy Institute. 

Dr. Kellogg has created the Transformational Chairwork approach and is currently teaching this method of psychotherapeutic dialogue to practitioners in both the United States and Europe. He is the author of several papers addressing topics such as as addiction treatment, identity theory, trauma and violence, contingency management, harm reduction, and assessment. More information can be found on his websites Transformational Chairwork and Gradualism and Addiction Treatment  
Dr Kristin Neff is an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion, along with Dr. Paul Gilbert of the UK, and has written numerous research articles on the psychological benefits of self-compassion. Dr. Neff is the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. In addition, she is featured in the award-winning book and documentaryThe Horse Boy, which chronicles her family’s adventure with autism. Her website can be found here.