cover image The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life

The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life

Mark Epstein. Penguin Press, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-29661-5

Psychiatrist Epstein (Advice Not Given) explains in this thought-provoking account how and why he integrates his Buddhist beliefs into his psychotherapy practice, sharing vignettes about his patients and connecting the dots between Buddhism, Winnicott’s theories, and Freudian psychoanalysis. As he writes, “I believe in the power of awareness to heal. I want my patients to see how and when and where their egos, or superegos, are getting the best of them.” This gets explored in stories of such patients as Jack, a child of Holocaust survivors, who “wants to know if he will ever be healed,” and April, an anxious executive “longing... to be known, to be reached, and to be seen.” Moving through a year’s worth of sessions, Epstein demonstrates how Buddhist thought allows him to connect to patients and can be a tool to help them manage their suffering. Indeed, he writes of having seen patients’ attachments toward themselves shift, with Buddhism as the primary vector for change. Epstein’s voice is compassionate (though sometimes his own ego is on more prominent display) and he helpfully employs a variety of therapeutic theories, as well as Buddhist poems, metaphors, and imagery. Both clients and practitioners of therapy will appreciate Epstein’s take on the complex interplay of spiritual and psychological teachings. Agent: Anne Edelstein, Anne Edelstein Literary Agency. (Jan.)