Integrative Psychotherapy Method
Buddhism, Ancient Philosophers, and Psychotherapy
It’s difficult to briefly summarize the ways in which Buddhist ideas and values enter into the psychotherapy I provide. I believe most (if not all) concepts utilized in western psychotherapy can be traced to ancient texts from various cultures. As a result, I believe every session I engage in with a client is integrative, by definition.
One example of the culturally integrative aspect of my approach lies in the use of compassion. Compassion is a powerful cognitive tool that I use in psychotherapy on a daily basis. The way that I utilize the concept of compassion in psychotherapy involves kindness, but it is about much more than mere kindness. Compassion involves seeing a person with complete clarity, which means recognizing the entire context out of which their behavior emerged. This means understanding all of the limitations under which they function. A quote attributed to Socrates is “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Socrates’ words inform us that, similar to us, about 2500 years ago, people were thinking about the value –and good sense– of interpreting other people’s behaviors through a compassionate lens. That was a cognitive technique—whether Socrates labelled it in that way or not.
Another example of cultural integration in my approach would be the idea that any effective psychotherapy needs to find a way to help the client cope effectively with loss. A core Buddhist tenet is the notion that our attachment to things causes a great deal of our suffering. Simply put, the idea is the more attached we feel to something or someone, the more we fear losing it. Again, this describes a way of thinking—of using cognition—that is as relevant today as it was when the Buddha was thinking it about 2400 years ago.
Another aspect of what I refer to when I describe my orientation as “Integrative” involves the use of elements drawn from various psychotherapeutic approaches. One of those approaches is known as the Client-Centered approach, originated by Carl Rogers. This work forms the foundation of all of the work I do with clients. Client-Centered psychotherapy (sometimes referred to as “Person-Centered”), a form of Humanistic psychotherapy, emphasizes that the client must be respected and that the therapist must be empathic. The work my clients and I do is highly collaborative, respectful and challenging. An overarching goal is client empowerment, because it is ultimately the client who accomplishes the change, not me. And I know that my clients only change when they feel empowered to do so. If a client does not come to me possessing the belief that they can change their life circumstances, we need to find ways to rediscover that belief within them. I utilize an active style of psychotherapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
My experience has led me to conclude that the respect and affirmation that are integral to Client-Centered work are not sufﬁcient in and of themselves to help clients to change and grow at a rate that ﬁts with most clients’ desires. This conclusion led me to incorporate an intensive type of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) into my work. The Cognitive-Behavioral aspect emphasizes that our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are related to one another. CBT work focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of how one’s mind works and of how it’s functioning can be improved. My role is to help the client to hear and see more clearly the patterned ways the client behaves, thinks and feels. A chief component is the goal of helping the client to ﬁnd ways to examine these patterns without feeling the need to punish the self for having them.
In addition to Cognitive-Behavioral ways of achieving growth, my method embraces ideas and practices typically associated with Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. The Psychodynamic elements emphasize the importance of understanding the influence past and present relationships in our lives have on how we all function today. My clients and I also often consider the impact of the culture (both the broader culture and the culture that exists within the client’s home). An outgrowth of this analysis is an awareness of the roles one has tended to assume and of how that has impacted on personal development. It is often the case that the Psychodynamic elements provide essential support for the Cognitive-Behavioral work.
My client and I work as a team to arrive at a clearer understanding of the challenges they are confronting and of the methods they can use to overcome difficulties.
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