Mindfulness in Psychotherapy – bringing mindfulness practice into the therapeutic relationship

Our colleagues at the University of California San Diego Center of Mindfulness have got their eye on the ball!  Well, perhaps it’s not just their eye but their entire being given they are now offering a retreat in Mindfulness in Psychotherapy for clinicians.  Set in the beautiful Joshua Tree Center – and I say that as an observer from a distance hoping some day to get there – it will be a five-day intimate training with two amazing teachers, Trudy Goodman and Elisha Goldstein.  Goodman is a renowned Buddhist teacher and founder of InsightLA as well as contributing author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy and Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness.  Goldstein is in private practice in LA and  is co-author of A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook as well as columnist of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy at Psychcentral.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and Mentalhelp.net.

While many of us are familiar with the group versions of MBSR, the actual role of mindfulness practices in the therapeutic relationship is a little discussed topic.  We know that teaching a Mindfulness-Based program implies that the teacher(s) is someone who actively lives the practice, embodies it, so that the process of delivering the program is from the core of ones being rather than from the frontal lobes.  Steve Hickman asks a different question in his blog post and, I believe it gets to the heart and soul of Mindfulness-Based Everything Clinical.   The question is simple: how is mindfulness integrated into our clinical work?  Before we make a checklist of the benefits and problems with grafting on a concept to our hard-earned training, consider the antecedent conditions of the question.

Psychotherapy is conventionally understood to be the interchange between a client and a trained professional, the therapist.  It is a dualistic process usually with a power differential, be it of knowledge, status, or both.  Mindfulness practice, by definition, is wholistic, the bringing together of dis-membered parts.  Its root translation from the Sanskrit (sati) is to remember, to recall, who we are in this moment.   And who we are in every moment is known only through relationship.  So mindfulness practice is not – and cannot be – about grafting onto a system of thought that is inherently antithetical to its definition.  The very paradigm shift that mindfulness as an intervention brought to therapy is of our identity as the unaffected courier of a product.  Who we are in the therapeutic relationship has to be reconsidered.  It a deep-belly question.  Can we, as therapists, embody the question, the questing, and the implications of any answers we find?

Let us know if you discover this through the guidance of Trudy Goodman and Elisha Goldstein.

Ugh… that was one of the most unskillful sentences I’ve ever written!

Let us know how you bring together your wisdom and the wisdom of the teachings of mindfulness through the guidance of Trudy Goodman and Elisha Goldstein.


  1. Thanks for the kind words Lynette. This connection of mindfulness and psychotherapy (or any clinical work, for that matter) is quite a multi-faceted and complex challenge that is worthy of much exploration, reflection, discussion and practice. I’m anxious to hear what your readers have to say on the topic.

    (By the way, not to toot my own horn but I am joining Trudy and Elisha in the training as a teacher!)

    Steve Hickman
    Director, UCSD Center for Mindfulness

  2. Steve, I can’t imagine a mindfulness training without you as one of the teachers! You are doing such great work.

    This is indeed a challenge to our assumptions about the therapeutic relationship. A good one and time we pushed the growth edge of therapy. Thanks for taking it on!

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