Buddhism and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT)

“In the words of the Buddha, … ’We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.’ It’s an idea that’s in line with current thinking in psychology. In fact, this simple philosophy – that changing the way we think can change the way we feel – underpins the very practice of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), an approach widely used in clinical psychology and counseling, as well as stress management programs.” So writes Kathy Graham, in a thoughtful article on Buddhism and happiness, which can be found here.

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Multitasking and Distraction

“In a time where no one seems to have enough time, our devices allow us to be many places at once — but at the cost of being unable to fully inhabit the place where we actually want to be. Mindfulness says we can do better.” — Time Magazine cover article on mindfulness, February 3, 2014.

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What Kind of Therapy Do I Need?

The below excerpt was originally voiced to Psychology Today in 2009, but is still very helpful today!  The question below was posed to Judith Beck, Ph.D., an authority on cognitive behavioral therapy.  It’s so concise and helpful that I’ll include the entire answer here:

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The Psychology of Hoarding

By special guest writer, Allison Gamble

Many people find it difficult to understand what goes on in the mind of a hoarder. Most people can look at a broken appliance and throw it away without a second thought. To a hoarder, however, throwing away that broken appliance is an unthinkable as throwing out away a brand new appliance that was purchased yesterday. If you think you might be a hoarder, or are trying to help someone recover, here is some information that can help you.

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Mindfulness and OCD

As mindfulness-based treatments gain currency in mental health treatment, it’s natural to wonder how many types of problems mindfulness can solve.

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Meditation and Your Brain



A recent and important research study out of neuro-imaging researcher Sara Lazar’s lab (my old lab) at Massachusetts General Hospital was published in late January.  The study found changes in the structure of the brains in people who completed an eight-week class in mindfulness meditation.  This result is another piece of evidence that that the adult brain can experience far more physical changes than previously thought.

MRI of the brain
MRI scan of the human brain

This study suggests that we can change our brains in just eight weeks!  The authors of the study tell us that in their study, people who completed the eight-week mindfulness meditation program experienced changes in parts of their brains “responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”

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Meditation and mindfulness research

For several reasons, mindfulness and meditation have been the subject of more and more well executed scientific research over the past twenty years.  Much of this research has investigated the effect of meditation on mood and on the brain’s ability to regulate emotion. 

Other research has investigated the capacity for meditation to help people suffering from anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.  It may be that the study of meditation’s ability to make us happy has gotten more publicity than the study of meditation’s capacity to reduce anxiety.  However for people with diagnosable anxiety disorders, the potential to be gained from meditation is perhaps greater than it is for everyone else.  Meditation can “quiet the mind,” and pave the way for certain types of anxiety (e.g., worry, panic attacks) to improve.

Is your therapy really helping?

previous posting on my other blog discussed the recent controversy over “effective” psychotherapy. A more recent article in the LA Times outlines the two sides of the debate. Regardless of what you think about this controversy, one important message to take away is that it’s important to consider whether your therapy is helpful. That may sound obvious, but whatever the reasons you sought therapy to begin with, it can be helpful to periodically ask yourself whether you feel that things are tangibly changing for you. If not, have a frank discussion with your therapist — a good therapist will share your desire for tangible meaningful change and would welcome such a discussion.

Book review: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

We each have different ways of managing the stress in our lives. Make no mistake, we all have some stress to deal with. Most of us have been through times when the stress in our lives felt overwhelming. For many of us, these times are few and far between. But for some people, stress can feel overwhelming on a chronic basis.

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OCD Treatment That Works

“CBT, accompanied by medication, is the only treatment for OCD that is supported by scientific evidence.  At this time, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of treatments such as hypnosis, herbal or homeopathic remedies, psychoanalysis, relaxation therapy, eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) or dietary changes… there are a number of excellent tools for reducing anxiety that may be used to supplement CBT and medication, including yoga, exercise, and meditation.” — Relief from OCD, from the people at BeyondOCD.org (retrieved 2009).

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