The Couch and the Cushion: Why Mindfulness Is No Substitute for Therapy


From Tricycle: The Buddhist Review: “All my analyst required me to do was to show up and to talk. And as I began to speak, my emotional body seemed to wake up and find its voice. And, lo and behold, it had a lot to say. I kept talking and my analyst kept listening.

One day, as I was nattering on about something that happened when I was a child, my analyst observed, quietly, ‘You seem sad.’ I started to protest, but then stopped. He had heard it. The sadness underlying my brittle cheerfulness. And then, maybe for the first time, I heard it too. And I started to cry.

This crack in my veneer led me to uncover the deep-seated emotional conflicts that had been festering in my unconscious for years. As we began to explore them, I gradually started to feel better and my life-long anxiety symptoms, such as an exaggerated startle response and chronic nausea, disappeared completely.

Therapy was able to resolve issues that meditation never had.

Over time, I realized that none of my Buddhist teachers had ever really listened to what I had to say. Even with the appearance of a relationship between a meditator and a teacher, when I was performing mindfulness meditation practices, I was basically alone. With my analyst, I was not. And that seems to have made all the difference.”

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  1. Mindfulness is inexpensive and “therapy” is expensive.

    Alcoholics Anonymous is inexpensive and rehab is expensive. A friend of mine attends the AA regularly and remains abstinent and happy. But his medical notes state that he is now a social drinker.

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  2. Talk therapy is just jim dandy wonderful but I’ve found that the therapy you receive is only as good as the therapist that you’re dealing with; and it depends on how good of a fit exists between you and the therapist. I’ve come to believe that just because a person has letters behind their name that signify that they can call themselves a therapist does not mean that they can truly do therapy. I’ve dealt with a few really good therapists and then I’ve had to deal with a lot of really rotten supposed therapists who either didn’t give a fat damn about truly helping the person sitting in front of them, or they truly didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing. You can memorize the principles of particular therapies but that doesn’t mean that you can use them well. And when therapists cannot use them well or don’t know what they’re doing, or don’t give a damn they can be very dangerous and destructive.

    I’ve experienced one good therapist in my life. I’ve had two experiences where I ended up doing therapy for the therapists. That was really bizarre and I left feeling that I should have been allowed to keep my money for any sessions that I had with those two.

    I’ve found that my practice of mindfulness is much more productive in my life than chasing after someone that I’ll have to pay to sit and listen to me. I’m not claiming that mindfulness is the key for everyone. However, for me it can be very helpful to sit, and in the middle of the silence just observe without judgment what is going on that’s causing me distress. The key is to be able to observe without judgment and that can be very difficult.

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