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

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

Jack Kornfield

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.

Jack Kornfield, PhD cofounded the Insight Meditation Society, is a founding teacher of the Spirit Rock Center, and has led International Buddhist Teacher meetings with the Dalai Lama. His books have been translated into 20 languages. They include The Art of Forgiveness and Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are.

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."


You might also be interested in our interview with Kornfield, "A Doorway to Mystery," in which he explains the importance of creating "a sacred space" in therapy and specific practices therapists can use to bring ritual into their work.

Or, check out our other blogs on Mindfulness by clicking here!

Topic: Mindfulness | Anxiety/Depression | Trauma

Tags: learning | meditation | mindful | practices | psychotherapist | self-compassion | therapist | therapists | therapy | yoga | Jack Kornfield | compassion

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Sunday, August 27, 2017 8:33:57 AM | posted by Bonnie Collins
I agree with you and I wrote an article for the Networker published in 2002 called "Expect Miracles" is full of rituals i do in my office both for my clients and me. I have been a therapist for 47 years and glad to be on the same page as Jack Kornfield.... Such rituals keep me going! Bonnie Collins

Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:46:05 PM | posted by Kathleen Sheaffer
At Griffith Center in Colorado Springs, we have organized a group to assist in self-care of therapists. This video with Jack K. on Therapeutic rituals is perfect for our group! I had told the group that as they shared the impact of their client's struggles, I pictured a photo I took in Morocco of Muslim men washing their faces in the fountain in front of the Mosque (ritual). I told them I would put the photo on the bulletin board as a reminder of what we need to do to release concerns and establish compassion for ourselves. Mr. Kornfield, we are on the same page! Thanks for the support. Kathleen

Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:14:48 PM | posted by Melissa Featherstone
Thank you for the inspiration and wisdom. The alter can also be an opportunity to share as a coping tool for the clients to learn about letting go and containment. I really appreciate the inclusion of any and all spiritual paths. Many blessings, Melissa