“I'm going to give you a little advice. There's a force in the universe that makes things happen; all you have to do is get in touch with it. Stop thinking...let things happen...and be...the ball.” – Ty Webb (played by Chevy Chase in the 1980 comedy Caddyshack)
It’s not every day that you find 80s screwball comedies referenced in articles about mindfulness, so you’ve got to give me credit for even trying. Hang in there and see if you find any wisdom in this silliness. Who says meditation has to be so serious, anyway?
If you are a psychotherapist, then perhaps you recognize those moments with clients or patients when you don’t quite feel like you are JUST a therapist, but that your presence seems to transcend that role. It is as if your manifestation in the room extends beyond simply a treatment plan, case conceptualization or intervention. You have the sense that what is at work is something larger than that, that you are holding a space of equanimity, patience, non-judgment and curiosity that is allowing this person before you to finally have an opportunity to experience themselves and their troubles in a wholly different and powerful way. There is a palpable sense of healing taking place, a felt sense of transformation unfolding in the space you have created together.
In those moments, I believe that we ARE the mindfulness of the healing relationship, the therapeutic field. We don’t DO mindfulness in psychotherapy, we ARE mindfulness in psychotherapy. It just happens.
But is it possible to not only notice it when it happens, but increase the likelihood that it will? Can we learn to cultivate mindfulness in psychotherapy in such a way that we are more effective to our clients and patients, as well as happier, more satisfied human beings in our own right?
I think we can, although I also think that it’s not entirely clear how to go about making this happen. It goes beyond simple instruction to “BE the mindfulness (i.e. “BE the ball.”). It probably arises out of practicing mindfulness intensively, regularly and systematically to create a foundation of personal mindfulness from which we then practice psychotherapy. And then perhaps we can learn some ways to work from that platform to facilitate our day-to-day therapeutic work to infuse it with presence, non-judgment, equanimity and all the rest, for the betterment of those who seek our services.
This exploration fascinates me, which is why I sought out my esteemed colleagues Trudy Goodman and Elisha Goldstein to create and offer a professional training retreat on Mindfulness in Psychotherapy at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in Southern California. It combined mindfulness practice with an exploration of the process of integrating mindfulness into therapeutic presence, mindfulness-based interventions and individual or group psychotherapy.
How ARE you the mindfulness of the therapeutic relationship? What do you do to integrate mindfulness into your clinical work? Do you think there is benefit in “Being the ball”?
I’m truly curious about your take on this topic. I’m basically a curious guy. “So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.”