When Buddhism Meets Western Psychotherapy

Paul Bialek talked to Lon Woodbury and Co-Host Liz McGhee on L.A. Talk Radio on the theme of how Buddhism meets western psychotherapy. He explained that Contemplative Psychotherapy was the formal name for this integration between Buddhist philosophy and western psychotherapy.

The radio show host of Parent Choices for Struggling Teens, Lon Woodbury is an Independent Educational consultant. His co-host Elizabeth McGhee is the Director of Admissions and Referral Relations at Sandhill Child Development Center.

A Quick Biography of Paul Bialek

Paul Bialek is the program lead for the Contemplative Psychotherapy program at Naropa University. He is also in private practice as a psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado. He has been practicing meditation for 35 years and holds a Masters Degree in Intellectual History from Johns Hopkins University and a Masters Degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa University. He is interested in applying and integrating the wisdom of the contemplative tradition of Buddhism into the practice of counseling.

So Just What Happens When Buddhism Meets Western Therapy?

When Buddhism meets western therapy, Bialek believes that they share the a similar purpose: alleviating individual suffering. As a result, counseling specialists throughout the USA have found it very useful to integrate Buddhist concepts like mindfulness into their standard repertoire.

Mindfulness has become widely adopted by many therapists throughout the country. It consists of paying attention to the given moment, with an emphasis on suspending judgment. Since, it is non-judgmental, there is no thought about approval or disapproval, but rather learning to be with the experience. Mindfulness, then, is about allowing thoughts to come and go. This contemplative technique promotes clear thinking and reasonable behavior.

Bialek pointed out that contemplative therapists did not teach mindfulness meditation, but practiced the art of mindfulness when listening to their clients. The therapist’s mindfulness then tacitly permits clients to share their thoughts and feelings without inhibition.

Citing some instances of his usage of Contemplative Psychotherapy in practice, he explained the procedure of looking at things with a friendly perspective to see just what was going on with clients in a wide range of circumstances. Patients familiarized themselves with their own ideas and begin learning to see their own experiences with some detachment.

When it came to teenage substance abuse, he made clients aware of their own energy patterns and thoughts. Therapy might include teaching mindfulness and tracking skills to clients and their family. When it came to substance abuse, contemplative therapy helped people notice when they were getting cravings instead of automatically capitulating to them.

Discussing anger management in adolescents, he talked about how mindfulness was a beneficial tool in helping struggling teens convert their temper into useful energy. In this form of psychotherapy, there is no attempt to purge an emotional state, but to collaborate with it, therefore progressively elevating emotional intelligence. Clients may in fact have knowledge about their circumstances, just not the capabilities to cope with their feelings.

Amazing things happen when Buddhism meets western therapy, the contemplative therapist is instrumental in restoring “peace of mind” in the client.

Lon Woodbury, the founder of Struggling Teens, has recorded the entire interview on his weekly L.A. Talk Radio show for people to listen to at their convenience.