The Impact of Asiatic Contemplative Traditions on Western Coaching and Therapy


Traditional Asiatic spiritual teachings and their methods have had some influence on psychotherapy since the fifties and sixties, but the new wave of western interest in them in last fifteen years seems to be more serious and based on more profound understanding. Asiatic contemplative traditions (especially Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu) have in its core psychological and philosophical account on the functioning of the mind, as well as an elaborated “psycho technology” – wide variety of practical therapeutics. Buddhism, with which we are here mostly concerned, for example, has always had as its starting and central point practical means of dealing with human suffering. It is based on the view that is close to western psychotherapy - suffering has its roots in the way our mind works and release is to be found through getting insight into it.

The paper reviews in the first part the history of the meeting of Buddhism and western psychotherapy, typical misunderstandings that have accompanied it, the main topics of a dialogue, influence it had on therapists, on their practical work and on psychological theory. Nowadays, on always expanding market of psychotherapy and self help techniques, Asiatic inspired models stand side by side with originally western products and attract attention of always larger audience. Many psychotherapists of different orientations (psychoanalytic, analytic, client centred, behavioural, cognitive, humanistic or existential) have personal interest and experience with meditation and apply insights gained in it in the frame of their psychotherapeutic work. There are as well more direct influences like inclusion of Buddhist mindfulness methods in new cognitive-behavioural models or designing new integrative west- east paradigms.

Counseling and coaching profit as well from Asiatic heritage. There they find methods of mind cultivation that can serve as practical self management tools in supporting change processes, decision making and coping with crisis. Such intermingling raises consequently questions of differences between the domain of psychotherapy and spirituality, as well as between coaching, counseling and psychotherapy. I try to differentiate these domains, although   simple recipes and sharp separations are here hardly to be found.

At the end I present my integrative coaching approach which I named “Coaching by Consciousness”. It has its sources in western psychology and psychotherapy, new interdisciplinary “consciousness studies” (which include as well neuroscience, phenomenology, philosophy etc.) and Asiatic contemplative traditions, with the main focus on the Buddhist tradition. Combining contemplative with cognitive strategies introduces more depth in coaching process, and respects human need for spiritual dimension and the quest for meaning and wholeness. The approach is at the same time independent of any confessional and institutional frame. Coaching by Consciousness is based on a resource- and solution-oriented process work, systemic thinking and concepts of selforganisation and autopoiesis. It adresses primarily direct embodied conscious experience of the client through experiential experiments, with the goal of finding concrete solutions, developing new visions and improving selfmanagement skills, self confidence, creativity, intuition and metacognition.