Buddhism and Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in particular, is a lot like taking notes and then refining them. The client notes what is on their mind, or the topics they find most important at the time, and it is then the therapist’s task to make meaning of it. In client centered therapy, unless they are not speaking, the client often instigates the topic, and the therapist responds with a translation of the client’s perspective. In certain circumstances, the therapist may remain silent, which can cause damage in that the patient can not only feel rejected and unaffirmed, but the therapist proves a sort of credit of power. In non-client centered therapy, this can be multiply damaging. With this, the therapist has a great deal of responsibility, particularly once trust has been created and eventually assumed. Psychotherapy brings us to a crossroads between an unreality and a reality. It uses awareness of the mind, bringing attention to the rational alternative of the psychotherapist, in contrast to the irrational belief that we had been harboring.

Mindfulness is a common word in therapy today. It is particularly relevant in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, in which focus on various senses, areas of the body, and awareness of the environment, is employed. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and individuals writing their own workbook or form of therapy or self-help, draw heavily from philosophies in such traditions as Buddhism, in particular the Mahasatipatthana and the Satipatthana. These both explain, in detail of approximately one hundred pages, awareness of all forms of the body; awareness of sight, scent, touch, taste, and hearing; awareness of behaviors; awareness of thoughts. It is designed to realize oneself, to become more self-aware, in order to become unattached from the world. Through attachment to things and body states, it is assumed in Buddhism that suffering will occur due to inevitable change of things and body states. Awareness is critical to mindfulness, and is mindfulness itself in a sense. In addition to awareness of the senses, behaviors, and thoughts, the Mahasatipatthana discusses awareness of breathing in and out (I. Kayanupassana, i. Anapana Pabba), and guides the recipient through the processes of slowing the breath and breathing in long and deep.

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