The SOMA Programme comprises communication practices, team building games, the exploration of character strengths and values, resources including powerpoints, audio clips, videos, mini lectures and activities that bring mindfulness to life in a powerful and inspiring way!
The cost of the SOMA Programme Teacher Training is £595
SOMA means body. In cultivating wellbeing, we work not just at the level of the psyche but at the level of the whole body – our physiology, our nervous system. The SOMA Programme aims to holistically impact the wellbeing of the whole person – their whole being. Furthermore, SOMA is an acronym for the core aims of the programme:
These four elements draw from the latest research on what constitutes the principal components of a flourishing life and naturally grow from the cultivation of mindfulness and the activation of character strengths.
Mindfulness is at the heart of the SOMA Programme. This basic capacity of embodied awareness is the foundation of wellbeing and key to the cultivation of the four elements of SOMA.
The SOMA Programme draws on research and practice in the field of positive psychology to enable the exploration and activation of character strengths as the pathway to wellbeing.
Social connection refers to our capacities for empathy, kindness, and positive relationships. We cultivate this through compassionate connection to ourselves and others.
Openness to enjoyment refers to our capacities for gratitude, appreciation of beauty, engagement and playfulness. It’s through this that we find richness and wonder in life.
Meaning and purpose refer to our fundamental values in life and what’s important to us. We find this through connection to something larger than ourselves.
Action and agency refers to the fact that we have a creative power to live and act in accordance with our values and in service of our goals and aspirations.
We’ve been teaching mindfulness to teenagers and young adults in a variety of settings – including high schools, prisons, and community settings – since 2011. What we found is that a rigid set of lessons often doesn’t work well, because adolescents experience such a variety of challenges and struggles: some may experience exam anxiety; others have difficulty with anger or attending school; some may have mental health issues; some may find it impossible to learn in a traditional lesson format. For this reason we wanted the SOMA Programme to be flexible and adaptable in an effort to meet the needs of ALL young people.
Further to this, we knew the SOMA Programme had to be trauma-informed. There is an increasing recognition that trauma and adversity affect a large percentage of the population leading to chronic stress and negatively impacting learning. Studies show that by 18 around 50% of young people will have experienced some form of abuse, neglect or family dysfunction. We wanted to make sure the SOMA Programme was accessible and engaging to every young person – including those who have experienced significant adversity.
To this end, we created a programme that is flexible and responsive. It is not a set of rigid lessons but a compendium of themes, activities and structures that can be adapted in different ways and over varying time scales. The programme can be six 45 minute lessons or it can stretch to over 30 hours. It includes a dynamic design process so that you can tailor the learning experience for the young people and enable the greatest impact.
The SOMA Programme was authored by Lorna Walker – previously a principal teacher at a Social, Emotional and Behavioural Needs school, and Michael Bready who led the development and delivery of the first mindfulness programme for incarcerated young men (16-21) in the UK and is the author of the Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme.
An important precursor to the SOMA Programme was the development of a mindfulness programme for young men in prison, undertaken over 4 years by Youth Mindfulness founder, Michael Bready. Click below to learn about the positive evaluation of this work carried out by the University of Glasgow.
How does the SOMA Programme compare to other mindfulness programmes for teenagers?
Most mindfulness programmes for teens have a standardised set of lessons that the teacher teaches no matter the group or the age of the young people. In the SOMA Programme there are numerous different themes and dozens of activities. For some groups it might be appropriate to cover as much content as possible in as little time as possible. In such a group their would be less games and discussion, and perhaps more focus on the fundamentals of mindfulness. In a younger group with more emotional or behavioural needs, more time might need to be devoted to establishing group cohesion and relational trust before moving into the exploration of mindfulness. The SOMA Programme affords the flexibility to take different approaches for different groups.
Is the SOMA Programme only for young people who have experienced trauma?
No! The SOMA Programme is designed to be flexible and adaptable in an effort to meet the needs of all young people. By designing the SOMA Programme to be trauma-informed – that is accessible and engaging to young people experiencing chronic stress – it becomes highly engaging to young people who have experienced adversity as well as those who haven’t.
How can the SOMA Programme be delivered over variable timescales?
The SOMA Programme is bursting with material. To use absolutely every resource and activity within the programme could take over 30 or 40 hours depending on the group. This might be feasible if someone wanted to do an intensive course with a group of young people, for instance 4 hours a day over a week, followed by weekly sessions over a year. Alternatively, certain activities, videos and mini lectures can be selected to maximise the relevance of mindfulness to young people in a relatively short space of time. We’ve taught the elements of the SOMA Programme in as little as 6 lessons and realised deeply positive outcomes for the young people we’ve worked with. In a shorter time span it’s not possible to cover all content, but significant impact can nevertheless be made. The programme is adaptable to meet the needs and aspirations of the young people, but also to be flexible to the timetable constraints of high schools.
Who is the SOMA Programme Teacher Training for?
The SOMA Programme Teacher Training is for professionals that work with young people and would like to teach mindfulness to young people. It’s open to school teachers, youth workers, child and adolescent mental health workers, psychologists, counsellors, yoga teachers, mindfulness teachers. The key stipulation is that you have a well-developed mindfulness practice of at least 6 months and have completed foundational mindfulness training such as an 8-week course.
Do I need to already practice mindfulness before I can take this training?
Yes absolutely! It is essential that you already have a well-developed, experiential understanding of mindfulness. In the training we train you in key mindfulness facilitation skills, namely: you how to guide practices and how to lead inquiry into the experience of the young people after they’ve practiced mindfulness. Further to this, we also explore the fundamental structures that underlie mindfulness practice so that you can design and structure the development of the young person’s learning of mindfulness within the SOMA Programme. However, this all depends on you already having a personal understanding of mindfulness.
What does the training consist of?
Over the course of the training we’ll find time to nourish our own practice of mindfulness each morning. In addition to this, you’ll get a chance to experience all of the SOMA Programme live as though it would be taught to young people. In addition to this, we’ll look at the meta-themes and capacities you will need as a teacher of the programme to design and deliver the course most effectively. You’ll also get a really nice manual and tons of resources!
What resources do you get from the training?
You get a really nice manual. That means you don’t have to rely on your memory because each activity is laid out with very clear instructions. In addition to this, you’ll get all the electronic resources you need to deliver the programme: powerpoints, videos, audio clips, etc. Finally, you’ll get important material to tell you how to best design SOMA courses as well as sample taster sessions and course outlines.
How is the SOMA Programme informed by the research on Adverse Childhood Experiences?
Studies show that up to 50% of young people under the age of 18 will have experienced significant adversity. Adverse Childhood Experiences include things like sexual, physical or emotional abuse; physical or emotional neglect; and household dysfunction, like the separation or parents, alcoholism or drug abuse in the family, mother treated violently, a family member in prison, or mental illness in the family.
Such experiences of adversity are often extremely stressful, and can lead to the chronic activation of the stress system. When the stress system is chronically or over-activated it can be difficult to experience a sense of ease or safeness within the body and learning and attentional focus are undermined.
For this reason, safeness is an essential prerequisite before any learning can take place. And most often, the most powerful route to a physiological sense of safeness is the experience of positive relationships of trust and connection. Human beings are social beings! For this reason, within the SOMA Programme we emphasise the principle of relationship before content.
What we mean by this that in order to teach young people mindfulness, it is first key to ensure that they feel safe and there is a sense of trust and nonjudgment within the group. For this reason, the SOMA Programme includes activities, games and discussion questions designed to build trust and group cohesion. Building on this foundation, we can then explore both conceptually and experientially the cultivation of mindfulness. When safeness is established through positive relationships, the practice of mindfulness can then further enhance safeness and deactivate the stress response.
We measured the impact of the programme using the Stirling Children’s Wellbeing Scale – a widely used and validated psychological measure of wellbeing for children aged 8 to 15. It includes such items as:
There was a marked positive increase in the wellbeing of the young people of 9.5 points. In terms of the standard deviation there was a positive change of 1.29 – a very large effect!
The SOMA Programme is not a rigid set of lessons. Rather it is a core structure with a compendium of activities, games, communication practices, videos, powerpoints, mini lectures and audio clips that can be adapted to benefit young people with a diverse range of needs and in diverse contexts. In this training you’ll learn how to:
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