This is a support group for ITZI members who apply Buddhist psychology in their work. This group is not public.

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This space is a private support area. We can share material about our lives, about our work, about Buddhist psychology, about therapy and healing, about whatever may interest. Mostly we are a group of people who have met in person at ITZI conferences or elsewhere, plus a few other friends. The material posted on this group is not visible to the general public.


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  • Whoops, sorry for all the typos.  Typing fast on a small touch screen.  The eleusis site no longer lets me edit my work...

  • I don’t think we have a problem.  It’s been an altogether intereting discussion.  Peter has certainly given me a better understanding of how he works and it, in turn, has helped me learn more about ZT.  At this point though, we probably do need to make a decision as I think that most of us DO want to continue learning about and exploring Zen Therapy.  If Peter wants to open up a second forum to explore Behaviourist techniques more deeply, I would join.  At this point though, I think we could continue as we have been, with Peter using his knowledge and expeience, as do others in the g oup, to help inform his questions.  I am assuming Peter is also interested in learnjng more about ZT...

    i do want to thank Peter for taking the time to explain the work he has done and the background to a behaviourist approach to therapy.  Its really led me to think more deeply about the hows and whys and whens of any kind of therapeutic intervention both from a psychological and a sociological perspective.  This, in turn, has helped clarify, ZT for me— to some degree what tmis and what it is not.

    As a passing comment in response to something Peter said, though, I don’t think of ZT as simply a Buddhist approach to therapy — it seems to have much more substance than this.  It isn’t just a subtle overlay to other forms of therapy but its own quite different approach.  Obviously on can compare and contrast any tyoe of therapy with any other, and find parallels: different approaches are often incorporated in the work of a given therapist —but we can still distinguish them and learn about them, and they can stand on their own as approaches if not instrumental techniques. 

  • I suspect that there is a split in our group between

    1. those who wish to evaluate ZT vis-a-vis other approaches, and

    2. those who wish to practise ZT and improve their ability to do so.

    These two purposes are competing for time in the group and, perhaps, therefore, leaving both groups less than fully satisfied.

  • In reply to Carol.  Behavioural Psychotherapy deals with a wide range of complex problems that very often involve families and friends who unknowingly help to maintain such difficulties.  From what appears a 'simplistic' problem is often very complex and challenging.  Problems that appear on the surface as 'straightforward' e.g. spider phobia can affect the whole family in many ways by adapting their behaviours to the clients problem, reinforcing avoidance and escape behaviours. In the 'simple' cases the whole family is helped  to learn new ways of helping. Phobias appear on the surface to be simple problems but often 20, 30 years or more have been invested in extreme avoidance behaviours.

     Other problems such as Obsessive Compulsive disorder are often bizarre, complex  and significant others in their life suffer and need help as much as the client, e.g. a clients husband having to insert and retrieve tampons during his wife menstrual cycle.  Depression and suicidal intent, addiction, sexual disorders respond well to behavioural approaches and you can appreciate that prior information is helpful as you approach a delicate interview for example a paedophile disguising or minimising his behaviour.  Not all clients have long histories so as you say there is an element of mystery and regardless you are always in Sherlock Holmes mode.

     Much rigorous research shows that such problems from the 'simple to the complex respond well to Behavioural work and follow up studies show it is long lasting.  I am not aware of any long term studies of ZT just as I am not aware of any long term studies of Christian therapy or Muslim therapy.  I have though met many therapists who are Buddhist, Christian and are guided by their Buddhist, Christian or Muslim faith. So perhaps we, or rather for myself need to define what exactly Zen Therapy is and how that differs from other therapies or are we simply talking about different psychotherapies,  influenced by the therapists' faith.

    To regard Behavioural Psychotherapy as a mechanic fixing a machine, I have heard this before from prominent Psychoanalysts but can assure you and would be verified by Mo I am totally useless at technical machine type work. I can't even use a mobile phone. I am, I think, Dyslexic when it comes to mechanics and in need of therapy.

  • Very interesting discussion.

    I have put some remarks here

  • Part 1: comment was too long so I broke it up into two parts.

    Peter, thanks for your comments.  Having you add some more detail about the behaviourist approach to therapy helps me see what seems similar and what doesn’t.  I disagree that the Buddha would have been a behaviourist.  But, certainly, there are aspects of behaviourism that he would have natually used. 

    There was point in the discussion yesterday that, at the very least, illustrated a fundamental difference in the way that you and David work.  In your practice, you prepared to see a client by reading everything you could about them in order to prepare yourself ahead of time.  David chose to read everything AFTER meeting the client with the idea that he wanted to get an unbiased experience of the client, rather than interpreting everything in the light of what he had read.  There is something to be said for both approaches, depending on the situation and the desired outcome.  Your approach is faster and assumes that a client who has been in the system for a long time (you said those were your usual clients) has an already fairly clearly understood problem, albeit without a solution.  You come in and look for an ingenious intervention to break up the clients stuck rupa allowing the possibility of freedom and change.  

    David’s clients come from a less defined and pre-determined pool.  There is no way of knowing ahead of time whether the presenting complaint really is the problem, or whether the clients friends and family, themselves, have an unbiased point of view.  Thinking of family systems therapy, there is evidence that a disfunctional family can produce a “symptom bearer” who effictively gets blamed for everyones’ dissatisfaction.  This person could as easily be the most vulnerable member of the family, as any actual causal contributor.  The client themselves could really be unclear about what and whether there is a problem and have convinced those around them that the problem is x rather than y.  There could be some underlying problem or trauma that presents in a way that actually covers up the real difficulty, as when a client develops neurotic behaviour patterns to protect themselves against some kind of childhood situation that may no longer even exist.

  • Part 2

    In a way you might say that behaviourists approach the client as if he or she were a machine that had broken down. The Behaviourist is a mechanic and aids in the process of diagnosis, followed by the needed repair.  Zen therapists approach the problem more in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, the client is a mystery, sometimes to both themselves and others.  Listening closely, and looking for often subtle and hidden clues helps the Zen therapist to come to see a broader picture of the client and his or her situation.  The ZT does not take the position to start with that there even is a problem.  He or she understands that the difficulties may lie anywhere from the clients false perceptions, to the client being stuck in a situation that might need changing, or being able to realistically recognize and face situations that cannot be changed.  The ZT might support the client in exploring alternate approaches to a specific situation or encourage new explotations to move the client out of a blind situational stuckness.  In some cases this seems to happen without any actual intervention but rather, in the ZT, NOT dancing/ responding to the client according to the client’s habitual unconsciously telegraphed instructions may be the key.

    [* To try to understand this idea of telegraphed instructions, I think of the analogy of music where, often, we anticipate the next note.  Modern composers, who wanted to say something new, recognized that they had to break the audience’s trance and do something unexpected. This approach was often met with derision but, over time, it led to new freedom and new experiences for the listener that could never have happened in the old framework of sound.]

    There is no question that both approaches have their place but are quite different.  I think David was exactly correct then he said that he would send certain types of problems straight to Peter.  Sometimes there is an obvious symptom specific problem that really does need a fix in order for the client to get their life back.  Other times there may be some complex mystery or confusion or conditioning in the client that needs revealing, unravelling, or even derailing before anything can shift.  That may need time and space and a different type of intervention that is more about seeing what arises in the free unhabitual space that the ZT may help birth.  Here the ZT acts more as a mid-wife, rather than as a mechanic.  

  • Quite a lively and challenging  meeting today.  If we are  to understand more of a Buddhist Psychology approach to suffering then it does in my view need to be contrasted with the wide range of mainstream therapies.  Many of these therapies will have some shared aspect with a Buddhist approach. For me, a behavioural approach has more in common than some other approaches that rely on interpretation, speculation, assumption and many other dubious sources of untruths.  Behavioural therapy is a confrontational approach to suffering,  Much like the Buddha proposed asking those who suffered to take action, find out for themselves, don't take my word for it.  To 'find out' one may need support  and that may well be a therapist.  A therapist who knows and understands as far as possible the suffering and consequences of your suffering.  Knowing enough to make a start relies on gathering information not only from the client but also from the skills and experience of others who may have tried to help in the past, other professional, family, friends etc.  History taking is comprehensive as we all know and should be open and honest  leading us to an understanding of the 'problem(s)' that can be declared and agreed with the client.  This understanding is a collaborative effort which suggest the type of activities the client would like to restore or develop in their everyday life, often referred to as goals or targets.  These activities should be useful, repetitive, and desired by the client.  Any interventions deemed to be helpful to achieve these goals are agreed and understood and contain means of measuring progress.  Often it is possible to enlist family and friends as co-therapists and this allows the main therapist to redirect unhelpful and unwitting efforts.  Finally it can be useful for both therapist and client to measure as objectively as they can progress and know therapy is going in the 'right' direction or if it going in the opposite and changes can be made.  The advantage of this therapy is that the client is actively involved on a daily basis discovering what is working or not.  So from my point of view it is 'doing the doing' that verifies deeper change rather than 'thinking' change.  In a client therapist relationship, the therapist is a model for open, honest and un-afraid dialogue with the person opposite you.  If the Buddha was alive today he would be a Behaviourist and have BF Skinner and Isaac Marks as his main disciples.    

  • Hi everyone,

    Thank you for all these interesting and inspiring thoughts. My own sense about the process we are experiencing so far is:

    It seems the free flowing/spontaneous aspect has allowed some great issues to arise e.g. Wounded Healer, Resonance, Parallel process, Psycho Drama etc. And within all that the personal issues and theoretical sharing of which I’m learning a lot.

    I’ve valued the pre-arranged offerings of case presentations and David’s talks on BP and other subjects and the very comprehensive summaries he has written afterwards, some of which I may have forgotten. I agree with both Nati and Carol that both spontaneous communication and a structured approach is good. As Nati suggests knowing some things in advance would be helpful. I think Priti’s idea of discussing what may be helpful for ‘beginners’ may work to encourage us all to share from that viewpoint. I have noticed some members of the group arrive and leave without saying anything and while that is okay to come and go freely, I sometimes wonder if I may have scared them away or it may be scary for them.

    I love the peer group aspect of the group and it’s international culturally mixed offerings which in my view enrich and broaden our communications.

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THE SIMPLE EGO SPECTRUM Buddhism is a non-self psychology.  For self we can also say ego.  Thus, applying this principle to psychopathology and psychotherapy, we can say the more ego, the more delusion the less ego, the more awakening Thus it is possible to envisage a spectrum from maximum ego to minimum ego which will also be from maximum delusion to maximum enlightenment.  At one end of this spectrum will be the psychotic person, completely lost in his own world.  At the other end is the…

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Today the ITZI Support Group discussed the theme "The Wounded Healer" Points that came up included some people become healers because they are wounded being wounded may intensify sympathy and empathy but may also lead one to project one’s problems onto others some people get wounded by the system that they work in as healers or by the stress of working with wounded people does the healer have a duty to overcome his woundedness? is overcoming woundedness actually a central part of the process…

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We had an on line ITZI Support meeting today with 8 participants. We looked at issues of phobia and at the skandha cycle. The skandhas can be understood as a cycle in which 1. RUPA -> VEDANA (significant "objects" trigger reactions) 2. VEDANA -> SAMJNA (reactions induce trance) 3. SAMJNA -> SAMSKARA (repeating trance routines proliferate as mental formations) 4. SAMSKARA-> VIJNANA (mental formations congeal as "disconsciousness" - distortions of mentality/identity) 5. VIJNANA -> RUPA…

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We have now had four on-line meetings using Zoom  technology. The meetings are going very well. We have established a pattern of either having one member present a case as a basis for discussion or continuing a theme already established. In this way we are exploring the issue of what is distinctive about a Buddhist Psychology approach to therapy. Any member of ITZI Support is welcome to join the meetings. The log on code is circulated to all members ahead of the meeting and sometimes also…

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