Buddhist meditation and psychotherapy – points of comparison examined

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McKeown, Aidan
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The aim of this research is to examine potential points of comparison between contemporary Western Buddhist practice, on one side, and psychodynamic and person-centred psychotherapy on the other. The research selected a number of points: the desired outcomes of both disciplines; their central attentional methodologies; the nature of the experience of self that results from applied practice in both schools; and the question of whether and how both disciplines may be conducted in relational or solitary modes. The dissertation found potential points of comparison between person-centred therapy and Buddhist meditation: Rogers' conception of the fully functioning person has been compared to the Buddhist goal of enlightenment, in terms of the scope for personal transformation. Additionally, his process conception of psychotherapy points to a profound change in perceived sense of self, comparable to the Buddhist concept of ‘not-self’ – a more fluid form of self-identification. The research also discovered strong parallels drawn between the evenly divided attention advocated by Freud, and the rigorous, open attention required in mindfulness meditation. Finally, the dissertation demonstrated that the distinction normally drawn between meditation as a silent, solitary practice, and psychotherapy as a dialogic, dyadic encounter is not wholly valid. Practices such as Focusing and Insight Dialogue incorporate core aspects of both meditation and psychotherapy, blurring the distinction between the two.