, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 708–722 | Cite as

Non-duality and the Integration of Mindfulness into Psychotherapy: Qualitative Research with Meditating Therapists

  • Meghan Gill
  • Jennifer Waltz
  • Patrick Suhrbier
  • Leela Robert


As behavioral and cognitive psychotherapy traditions increasingly incorporate mindfulness concepts and practices, it is important to notice changes occurring in the cross-cultural translation of the ideas and practices from their Buddhist origins. The current study explored this issue utilizing a qualitative research method to collect data from seven “information-rich” participants. These participants were psychotherapists with long-term mindfulness practices; all integrating mindfulness into their psychotherapy work. They had, on average, 31 years of mindfulness meditation practice as a component of a larger spiritual practice. Participants were interviewed about their mindfulness practices, their therapeutic work, and their perspectives on how mindfulness in their spirituality-based meditation practices differs from and informs their psychotherapy work. A review of findings is presented as well as in-depth exploration of a selected meta-theme; participants all, at times, demonstrated a non-dualistic worldview and discussed the ideas of relative and ultimate reality. These views affected their use of language and contributed to the presence of dialectical and paradoxical responses. These concepts are important to consider as the development of therapist training in mindfulness-based treatment delivery evolves.


Therapist mindfulness Qualitative Mindfulness Therapist training Meditation Non-duality 


  1. Aggs, C., & Bambling, M. (2010). Teaching mindfulness to psychotherapists in clinical practice: the mindful therapy programme. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 10, 278–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: a conceptual and empirical review. American Psychological Review, 10, 125–143.Google Scholar
  3. Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13, 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Batten, S. V., Orsillo, S. M., & Wasler, R. D. (2005). Acceptance and mindfulness-based approaches to the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. In S. M. Orisillo & L. Roemer (Eds.), Acceptance and mindfulness-based approaches to anxiety: Conceptualization and treatment (pp. 241–269). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 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, 230–238.Google Scholar
  6. Bowen, S., Chawla, N., & Marlatt, G. A. (2011). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for addictive behaviors: a clinician’s guide. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  7. Breslin, F. C. (2002). An information-processing analysis of mindfulness: implications for relapse prevention in the treatment of substance abuse. Clinical Psychology, 9, 275–299.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, K. W., Ryan, R., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychology Inquiry, 18, 211–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: a practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Christopher, J. C., & Maris, J. A. (2009). Integrating mindfulness as self-care into counselling and psychotherapy training. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 10, 114–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cigolla, F., & Brown, D. (2011). A way of being: bringing mindfulness into individual therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 21, 709–721.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy, 48, 198–208.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dimeff, L. A., & Koerner, K. (2007). Dialectical behavior therapy in clinical practice: applications across disorders and settings. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dimidjian, S., & Linehan, M. (2003). Defining an agenda for future research on the clinical application of mindfulness practice. American Psychology Association Journal, 10, 166–171.Google Scholar
  16. Dorjee, D. (2010). Kinds and dimensions of mindfulness: why it is important to distinguish them. Mindfulness, 1, 152–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dowd, T., & McCleery, A. (2007). Elements of Buddhist philosophy in cognitive psychotherapy: the role of cultural specifics and universals. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 7(1), 67–79.Google Scholar
  18. Dwivedi, N. K. (2006). An eastern perspective on change. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11, 205–212.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fulton, P. R. (2005). Mindfulness as clinical training. In C. K. Germer, R. D. Siegel, & P. R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 55–72). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  20. Grepmair, L., Mitterlehner, F., Loew, T., & Nickel, M. (2007). Promotion of mindfulness in psychotherapists in training: preliminary study. European Psychiatry, 22, 485–489.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grepmair, L., Mitterlehner, F., & Nickel, M. (2008). Promotion of mindfulness in psychotherapists in training. Psychiatry Research, 158, 265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grossman, P. (2011). Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during everyday awareness and other intractable problems for psychology’s (re)invention of mindfulness: comment on Brown et al. (2011). Psychological Assessment, 23, 1034–1040.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies. Behavioral Therapy, 35, 639–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hayes, S. C., Follette, V. M., & Linehan, M. M. (Eds.). (2004). Mindfulness and acceptance: expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam Dell.Google Scholar
  28. Kidder, L. H., & Fine, M. (1997). Qualitative inquiry in psychology: a radical tradition. In D. Fox & I. Prilleltensky (Eds.), Critical psychology: an introduction (pp. 35–50). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart. New York: Bantum Books.Google Scholar
  30. Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  31. Marlatt, A. G. (2002). Buddhist philosophy and the treatment of addictive behavior. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9, 44–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Maxwell, J. A. (1998). Designing a qualitative study. In L. Bickman & D. J. Rog (Eds.), Handbook of applied social research methods (pp. 69–100). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  33. McCollum, E. E., & Gehart, D. R. (2010). Using mindfulness meditation to teach beginning therapists therapeutic presence: a qualitative study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 36, 347–360.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. McGarrigle, T., & Walsh, C. A. (2011). Mindfulness, self-care, and wellness in social work: effects of contemplative training. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 30, 212–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morrow, S. L. (2005). Quality and trustworthiness in qualitative research in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 250–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Muran, C. J. (2007). A relational turn on thick description. In C. J. Muran (Ed.), Dialogues on difference: studies of diversity in the therapeutic relationship (pp. 257–274). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nhat Hahn, T. (1975). The miracle of mindfulness. Boston, MA: Beacon PressGoogle Scholar
  38. Nhat Hahn, T. (1987). The miracle of mindfulness. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  39. O’Driscoll, A. (2009). The growing influence of mindfulness on the work of the counseling psychologist: a review. Counselling Psychology Review, 24, 16–23.Google Scholar
  40. Pidgeon, N., & Henwood, K. (1997). Using grounded theory in psychological research. In N. Hayes (Ed.), Doing qualitative analysis in psychology (pp. 245–273). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  41. Robins, C. J. (2002). Zen principles and mindfulness practice in dialectical behavior therapy. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 9, 50–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  43. Segal, Z. V., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. G. (2004). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: theoretical rationale and empirical status. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition (pp. 45–65). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  44. Shapiro, S. L., & Carlson, L. E. (2009). The art and science of mindfulness: integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, D.C.: American Psychology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Siegal, D. J. (2007). The mindful brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.Google Scholar
  46. Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Wahler, R. G., Winton, A. S. W., & Singh, J. (2008). Mindfulness approaches in cognitive behavior therapy. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36(6), 659–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Surrey, J. L. (2005). Relational psychotherapy: relational mindfulness. In C. K. Germer, R. D. Siegel, & P. R. Fulton (Eds.), Mindfulness and psychotherapy (pp. 91–110). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  48. Suzuki, S. (2007). Zen mind, beginner’s mind: informal talks on Zen meditation and practice. Boston, MA: Weatherhill.Google Scholar
  49. Thubten, A. (2009). No self, no problem. Ithica, New York: Snow Lion Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Thubten, A. (2013). Unnamed public talk. Dharmata Meditation Retreat. Lecture, conducted from Perkins Camp, Stanley, ID.Google Scholar
  51. Vandenberghe, L., & Prado, F. C. (2009). Law and grace in Saint Augustine: a fresh perspective on mindfulness and spirituality in behaviour therapy. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12, 587–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wilber, K. (2001). No boundaries: eastern and western approaches to personal growth. Boston MA: Shambhala.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meghan Gill
    • 1
  • Jennifer Waltz
    • 1
  • Patrick Suhrbier
    • 2
  • Leela Robert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA
  2. 2.Evans School of Public AffairsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations