VIDEO: Jack Kornfield on the Role of Ritual in Clinical Practice

Simple Rituals Can Help You Be Fully Present with Clients in Pain

It can be difficult to leave your emotions in the consulting room at the end of the day, especially when a client’s story is heartbreaking or horrifying. But being shadowed by a client’s pain can leave you depleted and ultimately interfere with your ability to be present and effective in session. So how do you keep a wise and compassionate balance?

Here, Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, and a pioneer in helping therapists understand Eastern spiritual concepts and practices since the 1970s, offers us an answer with an example from his own clinical work.

As Kornfield explains, simple rituals can increase your ability to hold even the most difficult circumstances compassionately with your clients during session and reduce the chances you’ll be haunted by them after hours.

“Human beings are meaning-making creatures,” Kornfield says in his interview with Networker Editor Rich Simon. “We need to find meaning, or we’re lost. There’s an innate impulse in us to look at the mystery that surrounds us and try to honor it in some deep way. One way to do that is through the ancient language of ritual.”

Rich Simon

Richard Simon, PhD, founded Psychotherapy Networker and served as the editor for more than 40 years. He received every major magazine industry honor, including the National Magazine Award. Rich passed away November 2020, and we honor his memory and contributions to the field every day.

Jack Kornfield

Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma, and India and has taught worldwide since 1974. He is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West. He holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He has written more than a dozen books including The Wise Heart; A Path With Heart; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; and more.