Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

The medium in traditional psychotherapy is conversation. It has long been touted as the “talking cure!” But our limbic (emotional) system of the brain (influenced by early attachments/relationships) and reptilian brain (survival-based) often hijacks our pre-frontal cortex (rational/linguistic) region. The assumption is there’s a limit to the effectiveness of conversation in psychotherapy, e.g. our limbic brain is not engaged by talking about things. Also, therapist and client can progress farther from information about the present than from the past. The ‘mindfulness’ process in therapy involves:

For the client, turning your attention inward, with curiosity and without judgment, noticing your experience of the moment.

For the therapist, mindfulness involves two things:

  • Turning my attention outward toward the present moment experience of you, my client. This is my welcoming and wonderment of your inscape, your inner world.
  • Attending to your own experience of yourself with empathy.
  • Calibrating A and B above, finessing a balance. I’m geared toward the overarching macro and present micro therapeutic goals/process and needs of my client.

Neither A nor B involves my trying to change you, your view, or symptom. Nor does it involve analyzing, interpreting, or forcing my paradigm.

Mindfulness is a general tool, enabling a connection between you and your psyche. It helps you explore who you are beneath your ideas, expectations, wishes, assumptions, and preconceptions about who you are. The tool’s primary medium is: direct observation. This often involves some form of “mindfulness” practice, and, though not necessary, may involve meditation. What is “mindfulness meditation?” There are as many descriptions of it as there are theoreticians, clinicians, and practitioners! I prefer the pithy, simple, straightforward definition below.

Mindfulness Meditation Defined

In “meditation” we focus bare attention on our present moment and attune to the unfolding of it. This involves our non-judgmental awareness of current internal/external stimuli. We observe things as they are, without cognitive elaboration. We have no agenda. We notice what is before us, without stepping forward or back. Formal practice involves doing this in a deliberate, sustained, and repeated manner.