Zen Buddhism and Psychology are both concerned with psychological suffering. One is a spiritual discipline and the other a mix of hard and soft science. But neither are primarily interested in questions of academic philosophy or theological correctness. These are secondary issues. The prime focus is healing and maturing the emotional mind.
Buddhist practice and psychotherapy are ultimately about people and their well being, not about theories and ideals. Buddhist practice has always been concerned with the general malaise and dissatisfaction which all human beings suffer from – dukkha, whereas psychotherapy on the other hand has been concerned historically with mental illness – the more extreme forms of suffering, such as psychosis and personality disorders.
It is also important to consider when addressing this large and complex topic that within Buddhism there are a diverse number of schools which don’t necessarily agree on what is best practice for people. Within psychotherapy there is also a diverse number of therapeutic models which have different points of view so we cannot take a simplistic black and white approach to this topic. The best one can do with such a broad topic is take core attributes of both traditions, knowing there may be exceptions to the rule.
Drawing on more than many decades experience as a Psychologist and Zen Practitioner and Teacher, Geoff Dawson explores the overlaps and interrelationships between Buddhism and Psychotherapy in a collection of talks and articles: