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Ivey, G. (2015). The mindfulness status of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(4):382-398.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(4):382-398

The mindfulness status of psychoanalytic psychotherapy

Gavin Ivey

The popularity of mindfulness and mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) has seen authors from various psychotherapeutic orientations proclaiming the mindfulness status of their respective approaches. Despite a long tradition exploring the parallels between psychoanalysis and Buddhism, few authors have critically examined the relationship between contemporary psychoanalytic therapy and MBI. Those who have addressed this issue tend to be integrative psychotherapists who promote active mindful interventions in psychoanalytic therapy at the expense of identifying those features that distinguish psychoanalytic treatment from mindfulness-based orientations. In this article, I argue that the analytic attitude is inherently and necessarily mindful insofar as it invites psychotherapy patients to observe and tolerate defensively avoided experience. However, psychoanalytic therapy goes beyond this by emphasizing the interpretive elaboration of experience in the context of the transference relationship and resistance to exploring this. The analytic attitude also runs counter to the prescription or teaching of meditative techniques, which may function in the service of the therapist’s counter-resistance. A psychotherapy vignette is used to illustrate that while psychoanalytic therapy certainly includes a mindfulness component, understanding the unconscious significance of mindfully tolerated experience is the hallmark of the psychoanalytic process. This makes psychoanalytic therapy mindfulness-inclusive, rather than mindfulness-based.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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