What does it mean when I say I work as a contemplative psychotherapist? If you’re a current client of mine, or considering becoming a client, this is a fundamental question-what exactly is going on in the office, and how can it help me?
What is it? Contemplative psychotherapy is defined as the cross over between traditional psychotherapy techniques, mindfulness and meditation techniques, and buddhist psychology. This post is meant as an overview about how I came to this method, but future posts will include more in-depth discussion of how I work in these three fundamental contemplative areas.
The professional answer:
My work as a contemplative therapist began at the beginning of private practice, by studying and completing the two year post graduate course at the Nalanada Institute in New York City. This study work consisted of two years of contemplative work, retreats with faculty and students, and a wide variety of guest teachers from the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, and buddhist scholars and practitioners. It was at the Nalanda Institute that I was introduced to the practice of ACT-Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This specific method of working with clients spoke directly to my own personal experience with therapy and meditation, and I began to extensively train in this method as a result of my training at Nalanda. For a more in-depth definition of ACT and it’s roots, see the website for the Association for Contexual Behavioral Science.
The Personal Answer:
Meditation: I began my own meditation practice in the early 90’s, and became a practicing buddhist myself around 2000. Meditation began as an adjunct to Yoga, but I began to experience the benefits of meditation, and became more interested in the buddhist traditions as a result. I read my first buddhist book, Awakening the Buddha Within , and I was hooked. I have attended several silent retreats, become a meditation teacher with the Foundation for Active Compassion,and can attest personally to the benefits of meditation and compassion practices. More on this later.
I’ve always said without reservation that I really began my work as a psychotherapist by being a satisfied customer of psychotherapy myself. I entered my own therapy in 1994, and my therapist at the time, Marjorie Dubrow, embodied what I see now as the essence of ACT, contemplative psychotherapy, and mindfulness and compassion training-she sat with me, and witnessed while I sorted out my own life and choices-without judgement, criticism, harsh advise, or abandonment, and with a veneer of empathy and compassion that was visible and felt. Margery embodied in mind and spirit the fruits of compassion-and it helped me immeasurably. So much so that I decided to try to offer this to others.