Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). The self and the non-self: Applications of Buddhist philosophy in psychotherapy. RaIIS-IT, 11, 10-11.

RaIIS-IT 11:10-11 (2015)


Psychological approaches to treating mental illness or improving psychological wellbeing are invariably based on the explicit or implicit understanding that there is an intrinsically existing ‘self’ or ‘I’ entity. In other words, regardless of whether a cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic, or humanistic psychotherapy treatment model is employed, these approaches are ultimately concerned with changing how the ‘I’ relates to its thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and/or to its physical, social, and spiritual environment. Although each of these psychotherapeutic modalities have been shown to have utility for improving psychological health, there are inevitably limitations to their effectiveness and there will always be those individuals for whom they are incompatible. Given such limitations, research continuously attempts to identify and empirically validate more effective, acceptable and/or diverse treatment approaches. One such approach gaining momentum is the use of techniques that derive from Buddhist contemplative practice. Although mindfulness is arguably the most popular and empirically researched example, there is also growing interest into the psychotherapeutic applications of Buddhism’s ‘non-self’ ontological standpoint (in which ontology is basically the philosophical study of the nature or essence of being, existence, or reality).

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Mark Griffiths
Deakin University
Edo Shonin
Nottingham Trent University

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