There are several major issues to consider when examining the role of meditation in psychotherapy. I hope that these issues can set the format for an extensive dialogue among practitioners who use meditation in their practice.
PREVALENCE: Meditation is fast becoming, if not a standard of practice, then at least a well-accepted sub-specialty, much like hypnosis or biofeedback. For example, I have been asked to present on this subject at such diverse meetings as the American Psychological Association, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, The American Kidney Foundation, the American Hospital Association, and many others. If even a dozen others have been asked to speak at such meetings, then many thousands of health professionals have been exposed to this approach, and many of them will be utilizing some aspect of it in their practice. However, there currently are no guidelines for practice. Should there be?
MAJOR TYPES OF MEDITATION: In fact, there really is no such thing as "meditation" - the word represents as diverse a field as the term "psychotherapy." There are traditional Buddhist, Yogic, and Taoist approaches, and there are more modern Americanized versions, such as Contemplation or Guided Imagery. What are we talking about when we say that we use meditation in psychotherapy? Perhaps we should always be clear as to the TYPE of meditation we are referring to, much as we do the type of Psychotherapy we refer to in our dialogues.
EMPHASIS: Are we using meditation for mental and physical health (e.g. relaxation), insight (e.g past and present cognitive/affective habits), or for enlightenment (discovering the basis of suffering and freedom from suffering).
COMPETENCY: Should those who use this approach be asked to take a two week course in a Westernized adaptation of a traditional approach, or should this it be left up to those who have had mroe than 20 years of daily practice and regular contact with a teach to avoid egocentric pitfalls? If we focus on minimal training (as is done in progressive relaxation training), should we call it meditation?
USES: A Zen Monk leading a 7-day or 3-month retreat can lead to a very deep experience that can have very profound effects, but this is limited to a relative (healthy) few who can and will undertake this endeavor. By contrast, a psychotherapist who took a two-week seminar about meditation in psychotherapy could lead anxiety or pain groups in breath awareness for 20 or 90 minutes for weekly sessions, leading to some amelioration of symptoms.
Are both examples of meditation in psychotherapy? Clearly one is meditation, the other is psychotherapy. To what extent is the one useful for the other?
RESEARCH: How well can meditation be researched in a psychotherapeutic setting? Is it enough to show that there are physiological changes that occur (which would surprise few, these days)? It it possible to show that mood and coping can change in a clinical population with regular meditaiton practice? Or must we show that regular meditation practice can improve health outcomes in a medically ill population?
| Behavior OnLine Home Page | Disclaimer |
Copyright © 1996-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.