Let me begin by saying this book is for therapists interested in applying Buddhist principles to therapy. For the casual Buddhist it offers some explanation of Buddhist terms and thought, but for that purpose other books would be better suited. For the therapist simply interested in new techniques there is some food for thought, but generally the book challenges Western ideas of psychotherapy.
With that introduction, I’d be surprised if many are still reading this review.
It took me a good while to finish the book. This was partly due to my schedule teaching five courses, but was also a result of finding the text a bit boring at times and avoiding it. Despite the occasional difficulty motivating myself to get through the book, it offered a very different perspective on therapy.
The book focuses on the Buddhist tenet of selflessness as it builds its case for the Zen approach to therapy. The book provides many thoughtful gems, and in fact I have quoted it and will continue to on my “Thoughts For…” piece. There is a great deal of wisdom and practicality in the text. In some instances the book made me rethink some of my own therapeutic approaches. I have been much more mindful to not always challenge clients who appear to put themselves last, or even second. The book demonstrates that there can be good in this.
“Zen Therapy” also does a good job of reinforcing the benefits of Rogerian therapy, which it appears to consider the West’s best thought on the subject of psychotherapy. Even so, the book effectively challenges this theory despite noting its merit. Zen Therapy also focuses on the therapist’s responsibility to practice what she / he preaches, and advocates a strong foundation of peace and serenity.
Overall I found the book to be helpful in both introducing some new thought to therapy and challenging some long held ethnocentric beliefs about what is best for people. The book provides a great deal of wisdom, but, as with many texts, at times fails to engage the reader; even the attempts to do so with stories seems a bit bland. My final verdict is to read it if you want to apply Buddhist teachings in your therapy practice. If you are more interested in your own path for Zen, go with something lighter.