Contemplative Relational Psychotherapy

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Relational suffering is basic in human life. Sensitivity and reactivity to what others say and do (or what they don’t say or don’t do) dominates much of our experience. Notwithstanding the fact that interpersonal problems are quite salient in the lives of most people, this is not generally a point of focus in mindfulness meditation practice.

In my view, psychotherapy provides a unique opportunity to explore relational suffering in a way that honors both the Buddhist wisdom tradition and relational/psychodynamic models of the mind. For some years, I have been focusing on how to blend these two strands of understanding into a coherent, integrative psychotherapeutic strategy. I call this approach “contemplative relational psychotherapy”. It incorporates mindful awareness into a depth approach which is both psychodynamic and relational, and it involves a contemplative dimension I call “inquiring deeply”.

In contemplative relational therapy, we can explore relational suffering as it presents itself in the here and now of psychotherapy, we can engage in a process of dialogue which explores how our experience is psychologically organized, and we can discover how to be more skillful in relationship with others.

The purpose of this discussion forum is to explore this important interface between awareness practice and our work as mental health professionals. I hope this will become an unfolding conversation which will illuminate our clinical thinking and contribute to the sharing of our collective wisdom.