What Buddhist Psychotherapy Really Is



What Buddhist Psychotherapy Really Is

Buddhist psychotherapy, which has been adopted in the last several decades, is a novel approach to the clinical practice of mental health. It combines aspects of conventional psychotherapy with traditional Buddhist psychological theory and practice. Because there are several sub-schools of psychotherapy and Buddhism from which to integrate, there currently is no single formalized clinical approach to its practice. Therefore, Buddhist psychotherapy differs widely in its presentation among diverse practitioners.

For example, a contemplative psychotherapist trained at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, employs a method stemming from the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu-Nyingma master Chogyam Trungpa. This may differ from the approach taught at Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science in New York City, developed by American Buddhist Gelugpa scholar and psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Loizzo. However, practitioners of both approaches may call themselves Buddhist psychotherapists. Although still a relatively new conception, Buddhist psychotherapy continues to grow in popularity within Euro-American mainstream culture. In response, greater coherence and standardization are needed to ensure its long-term viability.

While it may take years to develop theoretical and methodological consistence, there are some common elements that distinguish the Buddhist approach from the more conventional psychotherapies of cognitive–behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. Following are some general characteristics that define Buddhist psychotherapy according to the professional training program of the Nalanda Institute developed by Dr. Joseph Loizzo (2012).