Sunday, March 1, 2009

Defining Contemplative Psychotherapy

What is Contemplative Psychotherapy and how does it differ from conventional psychotherapies?

Contemplative Psychotherapy is the integration of aspects of contemplative theory and practice common to the Indian Yogic and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist traditions, with aspects of clinical theory and practice of Depth psychotherapy common to psychodynamic and humanistic traditions.

What Contemplative traditions offer:
1. Advanced stages of human development from adulthood to enlightenment.
2. Identification of mental mechanisms that obscure perception of the true nature of reality and the awakening of the self.
3. Methods of introspection and change based on self-awareness practices such as meditation and hatha yoga.

What Depth psychotherapies offer:
1. Preliminary stages of human development from early childhood to adulthood.
2. Identification of ego defense mechanisms that prevent the genuine expression of self and from maturely securing one’s needs.
3. A method of introspection and change based on an interpersonal relationship that evaluates and addresses transference projection and counter-transference issues.

Philosophical Assumptions Underlying Contemplative Psychotherapy:

Based on Walsh (2007). Contemplative Psychotherapies. In Current Psychotherapies 8th Edition.

1. Our usual state of mind is significantly underdeveloped, outside of our conscious control and dysfunctional.

2. This state of dysfunction goes unrecognized because:
a. It is so common to human beings that it is considered ordinary.
b. There are a number of defense mechanisms within the mind that mask and conceal the level of dysfunction from oneself and others.

3. Psychological suffering, from mere dissatisfaction to psychopathology, is a function of the untrained or dysfunctional mind.

4. It is possible to discipline and train mental functions such as attention, awareness, cognition and emotions.

5. The mind that is trained produces states of positive emotions, wellbeing and exceptional capacities for wisdom, compassion and happiness.

6. The mind that is fully trained or supremely developed achieves a state of awakening (nirvana). This mind no longer is subject to negative emotions (klesha) or unconscious habits that propel actions (karma).

7. Beneath the dysfunctional mental faculties of inattention, unawareness, unrealistic thoughts and negative emotions lies a deeply ingrained misperception known as the evolutionary self-habit (atmagraha). The self is falsely reified (assigned ontological realness), from which self-preoccupation, fear-based attachment, aggressive fight-flight defensiveness and ultimately all suffering derives.

8. Contemplative traditions such as the Indian Yoga and Tibetan Buddhist Mind Science offer useful and effective techniques for dealing with mental dysfunction.

9. These systems are not faith-based religions, but rather sophisticated self-healing psychologies that require a person to undergo an inner transformation through personal effort.


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