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Exploring the role of spirituality and religion in treatment, this book provides a sound clinical and academic rationale for exploring incorporating principles of Zen in traditional psychotherapy.
The authors, one a clinical educator and social scientist, the other a nurse psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist present a fascinating dialog on the "science" and the "art" sides of the art-science debate. Practical suggestions are included for achieving a balance between these two poles of the helping and healing process.
Posted June 13, 2006
Zen and Psychotherapy: Integrating Traditional and Nontraditional Psychotherapies by Christopher J. Mruk with Joan Hartzell, published by Springer Publishing Company (2003) is challenging because it deals with two problems which are bound to generate serious thinking and meaningful debate. The first one concerns two points of view that characterize Western thought. They create the great debate between Idealism and Realism that goes back throughout our entire culture to the ancient Greeks. On the one hand, there are those who feel that certain ideals, such as an inner self or even a soul, are essential to understanding human beings. On the other hand, others believe that if something cannot be based on observation, measurement, or experimentation, then it should not be a part of modern science or therapy. Second, the book also must deal with another conflict of equal magnitude, namely the contradictory values of the West and East. For example, the Western inclination to seek objective knowledge in order to gain predictability and control stands in contrast to an Eastern preference to let things ¿be¿ and to let them ¿go.¿ Although many disciplines and books can afford to ignore these two basic tensions as ¿merely¿ academic, those who want to understand human problems, reduce suffering, or help people improve their lives cannot. Since the book seeks to achieve some degree of integration between these two basic positions, it cleverly takes the form of a dialog. Mruk, a professor of clinical psychology, eloquently speaks for traditional therapies, empirical research, and treatments that work. Hartzell, a nurse and counselor, insightfully presents the other side of the coin based on decades of practicing therapy from a Zen perspective. Mruk begins by describing the recent surge of interest in complementary and alternative medicine that is popular today and why the same thing is happening in mental health. For instance, he reports on research that says nearly two-thirds of mental health patients in treatment for anxiety or depression seek out alternative treatments. In chapter two Hartzell describes 10 basic Buddhist and Zen principles that have therapeutic implications for mental health work. Next, Mruk talks about where Zen may fit into the traditional scientific spectrum by convincingly taking a patient who suffers from depression through biological, cognitive, learning, humanistic and then Zen based therapies. In chapter 4, Hartzell presents actual clinical vignettes that show how she uses Zen principles to aid patients suffering from a wide range of mental health problems. She also discusses how Zen helps her deal with managed care, avoid burnout, and successfully practice for over 50 years now. In the last chapter, both authors effectively use dialogue to demonstrate that therapists, teachers, and others may incorporate Zen into their work and lives without compromising their professional or religious principles. Of course, such different ideas and values cannot hope to be brought together in perfect harmony. Yet, Mruk and Hartzell do manage to create a serious, lively, and above all friendly dialog in which the reader may participate. Their attempt to come to terms with these issues is based on the concept of the ¿Middle Path.¿ For Zen and Psychotherapy, this road is one that avoids extremes such as having to be a ¿true believer¿ or a ¿real¿ scientist by emphasizing basic principles, especially meditation. The result may not convince those who are hard and fast one way or the other, but it certainly gives the rest of us a clearer place to stand in regard to these powerful issues. Finally, the book offers several solid, practical suggestions that may benefit clients, clinicians, and their educators. Mary Ann Salotti, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Counseling Center, CalifWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.