Buddhist Counseling: Implications for Mental Health Professionals

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Buddhist counseling is a process of reducing suffering in individuals using wisdom and interventions from Buddhism, which aims to train the human mind to attain a state of equanimity, joy, and liberation. In the last 2,500 years, Buddhism has been a choice of healing method for millions of individuals but little is known about the components of Buddhist counseling from a psychological perspective. Many empirically supported contemporary psychotherapies such as mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy incorporate various Buddhist practices and ideas into their treatment modalities. Furthermore, there has been an increase in clinical and research endeavors to consider religiosity and spirituality in psychotherapy over the past decade. Due to these very reasons, it is crucial to demystify the process of traditional Buddhist counseling in order to increase mental health professionals’ cultural awareness of this fourth largest religion in the world and provide considerations and recommendations for professionals who are interested in applying Buddhist ideas and practices in treatment. In particular, this article discusses the common processes of Buddhist counseling, which include 3 major components: self-cultivation, mindfulness and meditation, and applications of Buddhist teachings, and implications of each component for mental health professionals. Hypothetical case examples were used to elucidate the process of Buddhist counseling as well as the pragmatic use of specific components.

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