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Home arrow Psychology arrow Mindfulness-Informed Relational Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis: Inquiring Deeply

Preliminary Reflections

Definition and Fundamental Premises of “Inquiring Deeply”

This chapter provides a conceptual introduction to “inquiring deeply.” In general terms, inquiring deeply can be defined as psychodynamic/relational psychotherapy informed by Buddhist view. It is relational psychotherapy which integrates mindfulness into therapeutic exploration to engage the patient at the levels of narrative, affect regulation, and psychodynamic understanding.

“Inquiring Deeply” Defined

The phrase “inquiring deeply” is used in this book in several different ways, as follows:

  • “Inquiring deeply” refers to mindful, psychodynamic, relational psychotherapy. It is a psychotherapeutic approach for working with emotional problems which blends the wisdom of Buddhist psychology with the knowledge of contemporary psychoanalysis. It is a psychotherapeutic framework informed by relational psychoanalysis, Buddhist view, and the practice of mindfulness meditation.
  • “Inquiring deeply” refers to an attentional or listening stance in psychotherapy; a therapeutic frame. Inquiring deeply can be defined as mindful selfreflection held in a context of psychotherapeutic investigation. It engages an attitude of receptive, mindful, and compassionate attention toward experience.
  • “Inquiring deeply” refers to a psychotherapeutic strategy which incorporates “self-reflective practices” adapted from Buddhism (mindfulness, investigation, and inquiry) to amplify and “unpack” psychological experience. All of these are mindful methods for deepening self-awareness and gaining a grasp of the mind’s potential.
  • “Inquiring deeply” refers to the self-reflective methodology used in this psychotherapeutic approach. Self-reflection is used strategically to investigate subjective experience from a point of view that is informed by Buddhist, psychodynamic, and relational ideas. This methodology can be incorporated into psychotherapy as an aspect of the therapeutic dialogue and/or it can be prescribed as an intervention to further the work. It can also be done as a self-guided process.
  • “Inquiring deeply” refers to a method for “practicing with problems” in the

Buddhist sense of the word practice. It investigates how problems are held in mind: how we can best understand them and how we can create a wise context for relating to them.

To reiterate, “inquiring deeply” in lowercase letters refers to a framework for psychotherapeutic exploration which is informed by Buddhist view and which engages the strategic use of self-reflective practices to deepen awareness of emotional experience. It can also refer to self-guided inquiry that proceeds along similar lines. Further delineation of the self-reflective practices themselves will be reserved for Chapter 3, and a set of questions for clinical inquiry will follow in Chapter 4.

In italics, Inquiring Deeply refers to this book as a whole. It comprises an unfolding deep inquiry in and of itself, delving into the similarities and differences between mindfulness-based psychodynamic treatment, on the one hand, and mindfulness-based Buddhist meditation practice, on the other.

The major purpose of this chapter is to clearly describe the key premises and assumptions of inquiring deeply as a psychotherapeutic approach in order to show where it fits within the broad framework of psychodynamic, relational, and psychoanalytic treatments. Because it is grounded in my dharma practice and was developed in my clinical work, this “signature therapeutic approach” is in some sense particular to me. My hope, however, is that sharing the way I think about clinical work will be in some way illuminating and will pave the way for readers to forge their own integrative paths.

I want to emphasize at the outset that inquiring deeply is not a new “brand” of psychotherapy. It is better described as a new slant on psychodynamic/rela- tional psychotherapy, an integrative clinical framework which is informed by Buddhist view and mindfulness practice. As a synonym, I sometimes refer to this therapeutic approach as “contemplative relational psychotherapy.”

Inquiring deeply is not something the therapist does as a clinical intervention, not something the therapist teaches the patient, nor even something done by the patient under the direction of the therapist. It is not something which requires any particular state of consciousness. It is, rather, a paradigm for psychodynamic understanding which is conceptually informed by Buddhist psychology and experientially informed by mindfulness practice.

The organization of the discussion in this chapter is as follows: first, the conceptual and philosophical underpinnings of inquiring deeply as a psychotherapeutic framework will be articulated. Next, the basic aspects of mindfulness (mindful awareness) will be described. Together, these summaries will begin to construct a conceptual bridge between Buddhist practice and psychodynamic work. The strategic application of mindfulness in amplifying psychotherapeutic exploration can then be explained. Finally, by contrasting the two sets of ideas, the discussion will highlight some basic differences between mindful psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation.

Presumably some readers will already be quite familiar with one or the other of these two basic content areas (or both) so that this preliminary discussion may be a review. Be that as it may, my intention has been to present all of the important ideas in a way that is lucid and clear; simple yet not superficial. My summary will hopefully provide conceptual common ground for readers to stand on as the discussion progresses to greater levels of complexity.1

Readers should be aware that this book is not intended as a scholarly exposition of either Buddhism or psychotherapy, nor does it try to make a comprehensive comparison of the two. Rather, Inquiring Deeply explores the “psychological world of lived experience” from a pragmatic point of view which needs to be grounded in one’s own introspective practice. Its overarching purpose is to provide a guide to understanding how mindfulness informs the practice of psychotherapy, and vice versa.

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