While psychotherapy and Buddhism may appeal to the same people, the effort to merge the two fields into one form of spiritual practice is becoming more common.
The Utne Reader (March/April) reports that Buddhist spiritual teachers are now taking their students on as paying clients for psychotherapy, erasing the boundaries between therapy and religion that have already been blurring in recent years. “As recently as a decade ago, most Asian teachers had their doubts about whether the two paths” (psychotherapy and Buddhism) could be practiced at the same time since Buddhist insights are more about dissolving one’s ego rather than building one. That changed as popular books came out seeking to bring Buddhist insights to personal and emotional growth.
But the new practice of Buddhist teachers also functioning as psychotherapists is causing more controversy in this spiritual community, according to writer Anne Simpkinson. Aside from challenging the traditional rule that a therapist should have no outside involvement with clients, the new trend also ignores the informal rule of a practitioner completing therapy before starting a spiritual quest.
Other critics say that playing the role of therapist and spiritual teacher is too much for most clients, perhaps creating a strong reliance and attachment among clients for the therapist (known as transference). But proponents of the new approach are taking the view that emotional healing is part of the spiritual path.
(Utne Reader, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403)