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Transcendental Meditation and Psychotherapy: Interview with Dr. Samantha Smithstein
by Janet Hoffman
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1 March 2016
Do you think that being in therapy rules out the reasons for learning to meditate? It might surprise you to know that many psychologists not only recommend that their clients learn the Transcendental Meditation technique, but also have learned TM for their own benefit. I asked for clarification from Dr. Samantha Smithstein, a psychologist who learned TM 35 years ago and continues to meditate regularly.
Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist assessing and treating adults, adolescents, couples, and children in her private practice. She co-founded and directs a treatment center for people suffering from impulse disorders and the partners and families of such individuals. Dr. Smithstein has considerable experience in forensic psychology, and has provided hundreds of evaluations for the courts and has provided court testimony and community consultation and training. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers, and the California Coalition On Sexual Offending.
JH: What is the definition and purpose of psychotherapy?
Dr. S: Psychotherapy is a treatment for mental disorders and/or emotional or mental problems via psychological means. The purpose is to alleviate mental and/or emotional suffering.
JH: How does psychotherapy help the growing population of women with depression and/or anxiety?
Dr. S: Psychotherapy—in conjunction with supplemental behaviors or medications—has been shown to have very good efficacy in the treatment of both depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy will help the individual learn about her condition and moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and ideally transform her relationship to her experience and help her develop better coping skills.
JH: Have you recommended clients to look into learning the Transcendental Meditation technique?
Dr. S: I regularly recommend that clients learn the TM technique, and find it to be a powerful supplement to psychotherapy. First, there is excellent scientific evidence that it can help to alleviate depression, anxiety, PTSD, and many other disorders. Second, having a twice-daily technique that allows the nervous system to settle and the mind to witness itself dramatically increases the efficacy of psychotherapy. I think Transcendental Meditation practice and psychotherapy are great complements to each other.
JH: There have been more than 360 peer-reviewed published studies verifying the benefits of TM, including the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression and the development of self-actualization. It has been successful in reducing violence in schools, recidivism in prisons, and effects of trauma in veterans and . Based on research findings such as these, findings on TM's positive effect on brain function, and your own experience, do you think the TM practice should be recommended as an adjunct by psychologists and psychotherapists?
Dr. S: I think it should be recommended by every psychotherapist. And I believe that every psychotherapist should practice TM as well.
Here is an article that was written by Dr. Smithstein and published in Psychology Today:
Some number of years ago Maharishi Mahesh Yogi wrote about the purpose of psychology and psychotherapy, and what the goals of the field should be. Maharishi brought a technique to the west—Transcendental Meditation—that would support the goals of psychology. Here are his thoughts:
1. Making the mind strong.
2. Enlarging the conscious capacity of the mind.
3. Enabling a person to use his or her full mental potential.
4. Bringing out techniques whereby all latent faculties of the mind might be unfolded.
5. Bringing greater contentment, peace, and inner happiness, with greater efficiency and creativity in each individual.
6. Bringing the power of concentration, increased willpower, and the ability to maintain inner poise and peace, even while busily engaged in outside activity.
7. Developing self-confidence, power of tolerance, clear thinking, and greater power of thought.
8. Establishing the mind in eternal freedom and peace in God consciousness under all circumstances in the midst of all activity and silence of relative existence.
The ultimate fulfillment of psychology lies in enabling the individual mind to tune itself and remain tuned to the cosmic mind, in bringing a fast coordination of the individual mind with the cosmic mind, so that all the activity of the individual mind is in conformity with the cosmic evolution and with the purpose of cosmic life.
Love opens all doors, no matter how closed they may be, no matter how rusty from lack of use. Your work is to bring unity and harmony, to open all doors which have been closed for a long time. Have patience and tolerance. Open your heart all the time.
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of Transcendental Meditation for Women Professionals in the US
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