Meditation and Psychotherapy

Freud used to say that psychoanalysis moves people from neurotic suffering to normal human unhappiness. I like to add that mindfulness meditation moves people from normal human unhappiness to the complete liberation from suffering, provided they have achieved normal human unhappiness first.

Mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy are not as separate as one might think, and indeed are much more complementary than usually thought of. Some Zen masters have been known to send their potential students into psychoanalysis first, before they accepted them as Zen meditation students. A closer look at the brain through the lens of Interpersonal Neurobiology can help us understand the issue.

In a simplified way one can say that the healthy brain requires that 9 different clusters of neurocircuits be in balance and harmony – these are referred to as the 9 domains of integration. Unless they are all integrated, we tend to be sick and dysfunctional on any of the 4 physical, emotional, mental or spiritual levels. Mindfulness meditation mainly addresses 6 of those domains, while the 3 remaining ones require psychotherapy. Granted that there are different kinds of psychotherapy and only certain kinds are truly complementary to mindfulness meditation, this is the reason why for many people seeking health and liberation from suffering, mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy go hand in hand.