Past Leaders

Dr. Chris Irons Dr. Rick Hanson Dr. Scott Kellog Kristine Janson
Jacqui Dillon Dr. Chris Germer Vidyamala Burch Gary Hennessey Dr. Kristin Neff
Choden (Sean McGoven) Frits Koster Zoe Zalavary Erik van den Brink Dennis Tirch

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 www.RickHanson.net.

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.
Frits Koster is a vipassana meditation teacher and qualified mindfulness teacher. He has also trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse. He has taught mindfulness in mental health settings, including clinics and hospitals for many years. He has been practising vipassana meditation for 35 years and was a Buddhist monk for six years in the 1980s. He has been leading vipassana retreats and courses since then. While he was a monk he studied Buddhist psychology at various monasteries in Southeast Asia. He is a teacher and member of the faculty of the Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches (IMA), the Institute for Mindfulness (IvM) in the Netherlands as well as various training institutes across Europe. He is the author of several books, of which the following books have been translated and published (by Silkworm Books) into English:Liberating Insight (2004), Buddhist Meditation in Stress Management(2007) and The Web of Buddhist Wisdom (2014). For more information, please see his websites fritskoster.com orcompassionateliving.info.
Erik van den Brink is a psychiatrist/psychotherapist and qualified mindfulness teacher. He studied medicine in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and trained and worked in psychiatry in West Yorkshire districts in the UK. He has been practising meditation (vipassana and Zen) for over 20 years, and trained in MBSR, MBCT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy and Interpersonal Mindfulness with founding teachers from these areas. 


He works at the Center for Integrative Psychiatry, an innovative mental health clinic in the Dutch city of Groningen, where he is one of the co-founders and a member of the organizing committee of international scientific conferences. He has specialised in solution-focused, mindfulness-based and compassion-focused approaches in mental health care and is a frequently asked guest-teacher at training institutes in the Netherlands and across Europe. For more information, please see his website.


Jacqui Dillon is a respected speaker, writer and activist, and has lectured and published worldwide on trauma, psychosis, dissociation and recovery. Jacqui is the national Chair of the Hearing Voices Network in England, Honorary Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of East London, Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Medicine,  Pharmacy and Health, Durham University and Visiting Research Fellow at The Centre for Community Mental Health, Birmingham City University.  
Jacqui is the co-editor of Living with Voices, an anthology of 50 voice hearers stories of recovery, Demedicalising Misery: Psychiatry, Psychology and the Human Condition and the 2nd Edition of Models of Madness: Psychological, Social and Biological Approaches to Psychosis. She has published numerous articles and papers, is on the editorial board of the journal Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches and is a foreign correspondent for Mad In America. Jacqui is also a voice hearer. For more information, please see her website.
Choden (Sean McGovern) was born in South Africa and educated as a lawyer before practising as a Buddhist monk for 7 years, during which time he completed a traditional 3 year, 3 month retreat within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  For the last 5 years he has focused on secular mindfulness training and played a key role in setting up the first post graduate programme in the UK integrating mindfulness and compassion. This MSc programme is run through Aberdeen University and is now in its second year. He is also working with Prof Paul Gilbert in developing a training programme integrating mindfulness and elements of Mahayana Buddhist practice with Paul’s compassionate mind training programme that draws on evolutionary psychology and neuroscience. He recently co-authored Mindful Compassion with Paul Gilbert which is published by Constable Robinson.
Zoe Zalavary has been practising Buddhist meditation since 1997. In 2000 she moved into a residential Buddhist college in Yorkshire in order to train in Buddhist philosophy, psychology and meditation. She lived in this community for 10 years, where she became manager of the Centre and taught many meditation classes. In 2009, Zoe spent three years in a solitary meditation retreat in a remote forest in Scotland. After finishing her retreat she decided to move back to the city to bring her experience into a secular context in the heart of the community. Since then  Zoe has been developing her skills in Western psychology and training as a Person-Centred therapist, and is a member of the BACP. She has also trained with the Mindfulness Association, and with Drs Chris Germer and Kristin Neff on their Mindful Self Compassion core skills training. She is currently based at the Tom Allan Centre in Glasgow, and her client work includes working with long term Depression, Anxiety, Eating disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Addictions, Abuse and Attachment and Developmental Trauma. She also offers one to one Mindfulness counselling.