Newswise — Meditation is now being incorporated into psychotherapeutic practice and combined in surprising ways with other healing traditions, the April issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter reports.
The focused attention of meditation may change attitudes and behavior by decreasing preoccupation with one's own suffering and fostering self-understanding. "Professionals of both traditions are beginning to realize that the resemblance to the aims of psychotherapy is no accident," says Harvard Mental Health Letter editor Dr. Michael Miller.
To the surprise of some, the psychotherapeutic tradition now taking meditation most seriously is cognitive behavioral therapy, the article reports. Behavioral therapy in its original form was concerned only with stimulus and response and tangible rewards and punishments. Eventually behavior therapists recognized the need to take account of thoughts and feelings, and they incorporated cognitive techniques into therapy. Now some therapists have gone further, merging cognitive techniques and meditation in something they call the "third wave" of cognitive behavioral therapy.
Approaches to the new technique include dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. All three incorporate meditation and mindfulness into therapy in a slightly different way. In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, for example, instead of struggling against depressive thoughts, patients are taught to notice when their mood begins to change, and to break the chain of depressive thinking by observing thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations dispassionately as they come and go.
The Harvard Mental Health Letter concludes that different types of psychotherapy are starting to borrow ideas and techniques from one another, and therapists may use several different approaches with a single patient. "The introduction of meditation practice into cognitive behavioral therapy may represent a further stage in the historical evolution of psychotherapy," says Dr. Miller.
Also in this issue:"¢ Conduct disorder in children"¢ Why people with anxiety disorders must face their fears"¢ A doctor answers: How is the new sleep medicine Lunesta different?
The Harvard Mental Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $59 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/mental or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).