By ROB FISHER, MFT, co-developer and lead instructor of the Mindfulness and Compassion in Psychotherapy Certificate Program at CIIS. He is the author of “Experiential Psychotherapy With Couples, A Guide for the Creative Pragmatist.”
Most psychotherapists want to do excellent work with their clients. They take courses to study techniques that enhance their abilities to intervene in effective ways to promote human change and to alleviate the symptoms of suffering. Research studies show that more important to the successful outcome of psychotherapy than any technique is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Clients change when they are motivated and ready.
What can we do to inspire this readiness? Most graduate programs in the field provide abundant information and studies required for state licensure, but, given the time frame of graduate school, can only marginally address the issue of how one creates a relationship that inspires a client to evolve emotionally and psychologically. The Certificate Program in Mindfulness and Compassion in Psychotherapy at CIIS is one of the few programs in the country that addresses this issue. The program features internationally acclaimed speakers and researchers in the use of mindfulness and compassion in the realm of psychotherapy.
Mindfulness has recently become a popular approach that is used in a variety of ways in psychotherapy as well as in meditative practice. It has been researched and shown to be effective on issues as diverse as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and even psoriasis. Mindfulness involves attention to the present moment without attachment or judgment. Mindfulness involves welcoming and allowing, rather than resisting one's experience and trying to change it. Using mindfulness in psychotherapy can help the practitioner become more aware of the fine grain of their client’s internal experience as it unfolds moment to moment. It is like shining the spotlight of attention on one's thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, memories, and impulses in order to recognize the subtle details of what is available in the moment. Exponentially more information becomes available to both therapist and client alike by using this approach. It is also effective at transforming one's relationship to one's own experience so that we do not generate additional suffering by becoming adversarial to our own internal worlds. There are many approaches in therapy that use mindfulness. These include: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Hakomi Mindfulness-Based Experiential Psychotherapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and others. In MCP we include all these approaches so that participants can develop their own portfolio of knowledge about how mindfulness can be used to deepen the therapeutic encounter.
We also focus on the emotional state of the therapist. How does one become a person with whom people want to expose their deepest and most delicate emotional parts? We need to cultivate qualities such as warmth, wonder, deep curiosity, and compassion.