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Am J Psychother. 1991 Jul;45(3):383-412.

The use of meditation in psychotherapy: a review of the literature.

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Saybrook Institute, San Francisco, CA.


This article has explored research to date concerning the efficacy of introducing meditation into the therapeutic setting. I have presented the views of proponents and critics of the relaxation model of meditation and of theories describing the cognitive changes brought about by meditation--for example, Deikman's theory of the deautomatization of consciousness and Delmonte's view that meditation may be utilized to bring about "ascendence," "descendence," and "transcendence." After summarizing psychoanalytic and Jungian arguments against meditation, the writings of several transpersonal psychologists have been cited to demonstrate the differences in how psychotherapy and meditative disciplines conceptualize personal identity, work with unconscious material, and view the experience of emptiness. I conclude that the question of whether meditation should be used in therapy can be answered only by considering what therapeutic goals are being sought in a particular instance and whether or not meditation can reasonably be expected to facilitate achievement of those goals. Meditation may, in some cases, be compatible with, and effective in, promoting the aims of psychotherapy--for example, cognitive and behavioral change, or access to the deep regions of the personal unconscious. In other cases, it may be strongly contraindicated, especially when the therapeutic goal is to strengthen ego boundaries, release powerful emotions, or work through complex relational dynamics--ends which may be more effectively reached through standard psychotherapeutic methods than through meditation. Meditation may be of great value, however, through its capacity to awaken altered states of consciousness that may profoundly reorient an individual's identity, emotional attitude, and sense of wellbeing and purpose in life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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