Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 135–154 | Cite as

Voices of Experienced Meditators: The Impact of Meditation Practice on Intimate Relationships

  • Irene T. Pruitt
  • Eric E. McCollum
Original Paper


Using a qualitative methodology, we explored advanced meditators’ understandings of the effect of the meditation traits on close relationships. Seven participants were interviewed. The meditative traits that the participants identified were (1) awareness of body sensations and emotions; (2) disidentification from emotions and thoughts; (3) acceptance of situations, oneself, and others; and (4) compassion and loving kindness for oneself and others. The relational effects of these traits were (1) less reactivity in relationships; (2) greater freedom and safety in relationships; and (3) a new understanding of the nature of connection between people, marked by unity, separation, intimacy and independence. Implications for further research and for clinical practice are proposed.


Meditation Intimate relationships Meditative traits 



The authors wish to thank the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and the Centering Prayer Group of Andrew Chapel United Methodist Church for their support of this study and their help in recruiting participants.


  1. Austin, J. H. (1998). Zen and the brain: Toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33, 482–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boss, P., Dahl, C. M., & Kaplan, L. (1996). The use of phenomenology for family therapy research: The search for meaning. In D. H. Sprenkle & S. M. Moon (Eds.), Research methods in family therapy (pp. 83–106). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  5. Burpee, L. C., & Langer, E. J. (2005). Mindfulness and marital satisfaction. Journal of Adult Development, 12(1), 43–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35(3), 471–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deurr, M. (2004). A powerful silence: The role of meditation and other contemplative practices in American life and work. Northampton, MA: Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.Google Scholar
  8. Dumas, J. E. (2005). Mindfulness-based parent training: Strategies to lessen the grip of automaticity in families with disruptive children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 779–791.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gale, J. (2009). Meditation and relational connectedness: Practices for couples and families. In F. Walsh (Ed.), Spiritual resources in family therapy (2nd ed., pp. 247–266). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gehart, D. R., & McCollum, E. E. (2007). Engaging suffering: Toward a mindful re-visioning of family therapy practice. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33, 214–226.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Gehart, D. B., & McCollum, E. E. (2008). Inviting therapeutic presence: A mindfulness-based approach. In S. Hick & T. Bien (Eds.), Mindfulness and the therapeutic relationship (pp. 176–194). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Goldstein, J. (2003). Insight meditation: The practice of freedom. Boston: Shambala Press.Google Scholar
  13. Goleman, D. (1988). The meditative mind. Los Angeles: JP Tarcher.Google Scholar
  14. Hahn, T. N. (1999). The miracle of mindfulness: A manual on meditation. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Haimerl, C. J., & Valentine, E. (2001). The effect of contemplative practice on interpersonal, and transpersonal dimensions of the self-concept. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 33(1), 37–52.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4, 3–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delacorte.Google Scholar
  19. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2000). Indra’s net at work: The mainstreaming of Dharma practice in society. Nork Beach, ME: Weiser.Google Scholar
  20. Keating, T. (1992). Open mind, open heart: The contemplative dimension of the Gospel. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  21. Linehan, M. (1993a). Cognitive-behavioral therapy of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  22. Linehan, M. (1993b). Skills training manual for treating borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  23. Marlatt, G. A., & Gordon, J. R. (1985). Relapse prevention: Maintenance strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  24. McCollum E. E., & Gehart, D. R. (in press). Using mindfulness meditation to teach beginning therapists therapeutic presence: A qualitative study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Google Scholar
  25. Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Salmon, P. G., Santorelli, S. F., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1998). Intervention elements promoting adherence to mindfulness-based stress reduction programs in the clinical behavioral medicine setting. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Shapiro, S., Schwartz, G., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(6), 581–599.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Shapiro, D., & Walsh, R. (1984). Meditation: Classical and contemporary perspectives. New York: Aldine.Google Scholar
  29. Shapiro, S., Walsh, R., & Britton, W. B. (2003). An analysis of recent meditation research and suggestions for future directions. The Humanistic Psychologist, 31(2–3), 86–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Teasdale, J., Segal, Z. V., & Williams, M. G. (1995). How does cognitive therapy prevent depressive relapse and why should attentional control (mindfulness training) help? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 25–39.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Tloczynski, H., & Tanriella, M. (1998). A comparison of the effects of Zen breath meditation or relaxation on college adjustment. Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in the Orient, 41(1), 32–43.Google Scholar
  33. Wachs, K., & Cordova, J. V. (2007). Mindful relating: Exploring mindfulness and emotion repertoires in intimate relationships. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 33, 464–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walsh, R. (1999). Essential spirituality: The seven central practices. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  35. Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61(3), 227–239.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. West, M. (1987). The psychology of meditation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Department of Human DevelopmentVirginia Tech-Northern Virginia CenterFalls ChurchUSA
  2. 2.Northwest Center for Community Mental HealthFairfax-Falls Church Community Services BoardRestonUSA

Personalised recommendations