There's a reason that what we do is called "talk therapy." From the heyday of psychodynamic practice to the present, therapy has almost always consisted of a lot of talk. In the field's primordial past (the 1940s and '50s), the pace of the talk was slow and reflective--a measured, leisurely, story-telling amble through the landscape of the client's past. In more recent times, the pace of therapy, like that of everything else in our society, resembles more of a dead run. Economic pressures now drive clinicians to specialize in fast-talk/make-it-happen-quickly therapy. Therapists who want to get the job done in the requisite 6 or 10 sessions can't let many minutes pass without actively doing--which generally means saying--something.
Therefore, it's all the more astonishing, if not downright perverse, that one of the fastest growing trends in therapy is the increasingly widespread use of meditation and mindfulness techniques. Meditation and mindfulness are about, if they're about anything, achieving a certain kind of inner and outer silence, a deeply attentive, resonant, empathic kind of silence--but silence, nonetheless. How on earth can the talkiest profession in the world do any good by expecting its practitioners to put a sock in it, and even encouraging clients (gently, kindly, compassionately) to put a sock in it as well?!
For many years, using meditation techniques in sessions was regarded in mainstream professional circles as New Age-y to the point of malpractice. Now, as Jerome Front reports in his cover story, mindfulness has "permeated the psychotherapy universe," not only because it helps clients achieve a state of relaxed concentration conducive to effective therapy, but because, in the past fifteen years, a blizzard of research findings have demonstrated its benefits throughout the whole range of mental and physical health care. Apparently, we're discovering, there's almost no physical, spiritual, or psychological suffering that mindfulness training can't soothe or repair.