Mindfulness and Psychoanalysis

This post refers to a passage taken from a book by Elio Frattaroli, M.D. entitled Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain: Why Medication Isn’t Enough, pages 190-193. Frattaroli argues against modern therapeutic practice, where all too often psychiatrists (in the U.S.) are pressured by managed health care to medicate with short length-of-stays in hospitals and in therapy. He advocates for a more balanced system, where the scientific method is not the “be-all and end-all” when it comes to understanding the human experience.

In his book, Dr. Frattaroli had a conversation with a patient, who was considering suddenly ending treatment because she felt she no longer needed therapy. Dr. Frattaroli felt that this urgency to end treatment came from resistance to repressed emotion(s).

Although he does not explicitly mention it, it seems to me that Frattaroli (who is a strong advocate for psychoanalysis) implies a Buddhist philosophy in his understanding of human nature and the origin of symptoms. He discusses allowing feelings to emerge without trying to control them, and remaining open to the human experience while noting what feelings come up spontaneously. These are some of the concepts discussed within Zen Buddhism and mindfulness. In recent years mindfulness and meditation have been successfully incorporated into several theories and practices in the United States. For example, dialectical behavioral therapy has been successful in the treatment of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder.

These passages inspire me to rethink the application of mindfulness to art therapy practice, which is traditionally rooted in psychoanalytic philosophy. Teaching the lessons of mindfulness may aid the client to be more open to their inner experiences without judgment, while creating and processing artwork is in many instances less anxiety-provoking than talking. Intuitively, it seems that using both together may allow the client to cope more effectively while examining him/herself as the unconscious is made conscious. This may mean less resistance to treatment and more effective ways of coping with negative emotional states.

However, the therapist must always ask him/herself whether the client has the ego strength for treatment using a psychodynamic combined with a mindfulness approach. For example, if a client has difficulty describing/understanding/managing emotions and their emotional states due to cognitive deficits, perhaps this approach would be both frustrating and ineffective. Above all, the therapist must meet the client where they’re at.

5 Replies to “Mindfulness and Psychoanalysis”

  1. I think that the mind always seeks to stabilize itself, dealing with mental trauma as our immune system deals with disease.

    We know that having dreams is not just healthy but essential to mental health so getting the patient to sleep properly should be the logical first step in any therapy not medication, in my opinion.

    If sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations why shouldn’t the first step in therapy be to address all the day to day things that affect the quality of sleep? antidepressants, birth control pills, ADD medicines, respiratory medicines not to mention all the things we as a society all know affect sleep, coffee, tv, recreational chemicals, stress ad infinitum.

    I honestly think it’s more important for the patient to be unconscious for a while if you really want to heal them, not just address the manifestations of the trauma as they happen. Ever quit smoking? If you only address the cravings as they happen you are likely to relapse, but if you learn to be healthy you learn to ignore the cravings….

  2. I agree. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem with sooo many people, and has been implicated in the onset of all sorts of mental illness, including depression, mania, anxiety disorders and addiction. In my experience, many people are over caffeinated, over stressed and over sugared, staying up all night watching tv, etc…discussing healthy life style choices is definitely a key issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to sleep needs.

  3. I wonder if we as human beings have a ‘death wish’ not because of some self destructive flaw but because we are aware that we have an immortal soul on some level and instinctively know that there is more to come after the flesh rots away? I wonder how often spiritual symbols appear in the art of the mentally challenged who one would assume feel no pressure to ‘act normal’?

  4. Though I find your blogging interesting, lengthy quotes such as these can be considered plagiarism. You will need to look into Fair Use especially when you are using close to 1400 words in one quote from the original work. See the following excerpts from the “Multi media fair use guide”: http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/ccmcguid.htm

    4.2.2 Text Material

    Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less, in the aggregate of a copyrighted work consisting of text material may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of a multimedia project created under Section 2 of these guidelines. An entire poem of less than 250 words may be used, but no more than three poems by one poet, or five poems by different poets from any anthology may be used. For poems of greater length, 250 words may be used but no more than three excerpts by a poet, or five excerpts by different poets from a single anthology may be used.

    5.2 Duplication of Multimedia Projects Beyond Limitations Listed in These Guidelines
    Even for educational uses, educators and students must seek individual permissions for all copyrighted works incorporated in their personally created educational multimedia projects before replicating or distributing beyond the limitations listed in Section 4.3.

    5.3 Distribution of Multimedia Projects Beyond Limitations Listed in These Guidelines
    Educators and students may not use their personally created educational multimedia projects over electronic networks, except for uses as described in Section 3.2.3, without obtaining permissions for all copyrighted works incorporated in the program.

    Writing online is not specified but is a way to educate the public, which may technically allow some leaway. There are few blogging art therapists. I do wish to see more, but we need to make sure it is done right.

    Here is the Wikipedia reference to fair use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

  5. Thank you for pointing this out to me, Concerned. I guess I was pretty naive not to look at copyright laws before posting this. I have taken the quote out, since I have not yet obtained approval from its original author, and even making the quote less than 1000 words seems to bind me to a time limit as to how long I can keep the quote available for eveyone to read. Its unfortunate that you did not leave me a way to contact you, so I could inform you of this correction personally.

    Thanks again

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