Buddhist philosophy

Although Buddhist philosophy itself is not an evidence-based therapeutic modality, many of its themes have been utilized in therapy. Practical tools - like meditation and mindfulness techniques - have been adapted by therapists to help people experiencing mental health challenges.

Learn about how the principles of Buddhist philosophy have been successfully incorporated into western therapeutic approaches.

What is Buddhist philosophy?

Originally an Eastern tradition, Buddhism is a philosophy or ‘way of life’ based on the teachings of the Buddha, an important spiritual figure.

Central to Buddhist philosophy are four noble truths, which are that:

1. Life is full of suffering

2. The cause of this suffering is attachment (or, desire, clinging, craving, avoidance, or ignorance)

3. It is possible to stop suffering; it is within our control

4. There is a way to extinguish suffering. Briefly, the path to extinguishing suffering involves:

Buddhist philosophy and psychology

Some Buddhist concepts and techniques that you might come across in therapy include:

Buddhist philosophy and therapy

While Buddhism is not itself an evidence-based therapeutic modality, its philosophy has influenced and been incorporated into many therapeutic modalities, such as:

Aside from the therapy type used, a therapist’s own Buddhist practice might also influence their style of therapy. Many therapists will include this kind of information in their online profile so that you can easily identify who they are. See below for more tips on choosing a therapist.

What can Buddhist philosophy help with?

Keeping in mind that Buddhist philosophy is not a stand-alone evidence-based therapeutic modality, its concepts have been successfully incorporated into evidence-based approaches. Such therapy types have been used to treat many mental health challenges, including:

What to look for in a therapist

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a therapist for Buddhism-informed therapies, including:

Specialization: If a therapist has an interest in Buddhist philosophy, they are likely to include this information in their online bios; they may be meditators themselves, practice Buddhism, or focus on mindfulness as a core part of their treatment approach. Look for a therapist who has experience and specialized training in your particular concerns or one of the evidence-based therapy modalities described above. Therapists often include this information in their biography on their website or online profile.

Qualifications: With so many different provider types available, it can be difficult to decide which type of mental health professional to see. The most important thing is to look for a currently licensed therapist.

Personal fit: The trusting relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy. It’s important to work with someone you trust and feel understood by, particularly as the spiritual element of working in a Buddhist-informed framework can feel uncomfortable and challenging for some.

The best way to judge how you might feel about a therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. This also allows you to ask about their experience, how they incorporate Buddhist philosophy into their practice, and what therapy will be like.  Explore how the therapist brings their own practice of Buddhism to influence therapy, and try to speak to a few different therapists before deciding.

Find therapists specializing in Buddhism-informed therapy

Find therapists who specialize in Buddhism-informed therapies on Zencare. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

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