Interest in the psychotherapeutic capacity of Buddhist teachings
and practices is widely evident in the popular imagination. News
media routinely report on the neuropsychological study of Buddhist
meditation and applications of mindfulness practices in settings
including corporate offices, the U.S. military, and university
health centers. However, as Ira Helderman shows, curious
investigators have studied the psychological dimensions of Buddhist
doctrine for well over a century, stretching back to William James
and Carl Jung. These activities have shaped both the mental health
field and Buddhist practice throughout the United States.
This is the first comprehensive study of the surprisingly diverse
ways that psychotherapists have related to Buddhist traditions.
Through extensive fieldwork and in-depth interviews with
clinicians, many of whom have been formative to the therapeutic use
of Buddhist practices, Helderman gives voice to the
psychotherapists themselves. He focuses on how they understand key
categories such as religion and science. Some are invested in
maintaining a hard border between religion and psychotherapy as a
biomedical discipline. Others speak of a religious-secular binary
that they mean to disrupt. Helderman finds that psychotherapists'
approaches to Buddhist traditions are molded by how they define
what is and is not religious, demonstrating how central these
concepts are in contemporary American culture.