The Zentensive: A Psychodynamically Oriented Meditation Retreat for Psychotherapists

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Abstract

There is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that therapists vary in their ability to positively impact patient outcomes, but less is known about ways therapists can improve their outcomes. While several promising methods exist for training therapists in interpersonal skills linked to patient outcomes, fewer methods have been outlined for training intrapersonal skills. The current study reports the rationale and theoretical framework for a psychodynamically oriented meditation retreat: the Zentensive. This retreat combines Zen Buddhist teachings and meditation practice with an understanding of unconscious dynamics drawn from Habib Davanloo’s Intensive Short-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. We argue that intensive meditation practice offers a unique opportunity for mental health providers to gain insight into their own unconscious dynamics, leading to the development of intrapsychic skills, in ways that can improve their ability to work with others. The structure of the Zentensive, theoretical contributions from both Buddhist and psychodynamic traditions, and the unique need addressed by this integration are discussed. In addition, preliminary qualitative feedback from past retreat participants is presented.

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