Inquiring Deeply

Mindful Self-Reflection in Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, like mindfulness meditation, has the purpose of helping us get to know our minds. Inquiring deeply is a psychotherapeutic framework in which this happens in two interwoven ways: through mindful self-reflection, and in dialogue with a mindful therapist. This amounts to a creative synthesis of mindfulness meditation and psychodynamic/relational psychotherapy in which we discover our own deepest, subjective truths.

To reiterate some of the primary conclusions in the preceding chapter, inquiring deeply in psychotherapy is not a particular method nor a particular state of consciousness. It is not something the therapist does as a clinical intervention, not something the therapist explicitly teaches the patient, nor even something done by the patient under the direction of the therapist. Rather, it is a stance of mindful reflection that arises as a function of shared psychotherapeutic intention in the therapy relationship.

While we can “inquire deeply” by ourselves, either in formal periods of meditation practice or in the process of daily life, there are ways in which collaborative inquiry is optimal. Just as a fish is unlikely to be aware of the water in which it swims, there are some aspects of ourselves that are essentially invisible except in the mirror of another. For this reason, this kind of psychological exploration is well-suited to the psychotherapeutic process.

Because each therapeutic situation is unique, the therapeutic strategy can vary a great deal. The most essential element is the stance of mindful presence that is brought to clinical listening.

The clinical signature of inquiring deeply as a psychotherapeutic approach includes the fact that (1) it is Buddhist-informed and incorporates dharma practice methodology and Buddhadharma into the process of exploring psychological suffering; and (2) it is psychoanalytically informed and highlights the relational dimensions of suffering. It creatively interweaves psychotherapeutic dialogue, mindful awareness, and intentional self-reflection into new narratives of understanding. This allows us (both therapists and patients) to become aware of things that might otherwise escape our notice.

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