If you would like to find out more about the Karuna Institute, the home of Core Process Psychotherapy, and its founder Maura Sills, visit the website
Psychotherapy & Counselling – a resource in times of need
Core Process Psychotherapy
Of course, this is much easier to write than to do in practice.
I appreciated Ruby Wax’s reflections in her book “Sane New World: Taming the Mind” (2013, published by Hodder & Stoughton):
“ With mindfulness practice, you eventually tame, calm and befriend that bucking bronco of a mind, gently taking the reins and steering it where you want. If you whip or treat a horse cruelly it will most likely throw you into the dirt and probably stamp on you for luck. If you’re gentle with it, soothing it, giving it a little stroke, a shard of straw and lovingly shout ‘whoa’, it will eventually calm down. Same with the mind; …”
(Wax, 2013, p. 137)
CPP is based upon the belief that within us there exists a core, which holds the potential for health and well-being, which can be accessed through increased mindfulness and awareness.
It is an exploration of our present experience and how this expresses our past conditioning and conditions of our lives. Each of us shapes our personality into a unique form, with which we identify and through which we look at the world. Through therapeutic work we can begin to be aware of our own inner process; awareness of our process does not change our experience but can alter our attitude to it.
This can allow a greater freedom and flexibility in the way we relate to others and ourselves.
Whilst there are many different ‘forms’ of psychotherapy and counselling, modern research has shown that the most important element of any support is the relationship between therapist and client.
There is not a great difference between counselling and psychotherapy: both aim to provide a safe, congruent and supportive environment in which a client can express themselves as they need to, to talk about the things that concern them and share their experiences in as much depth as they feel is right.
At their core, psychotherapy and counselling are there to support a client’s journey to health and well-being; they may, or may not, be used in conjunction with other interventions and a wider supportive field including GPs, mental health services and others.
Reaching out to someone when we are in need of support is often the hardest step to take. Being able to share our perspective of our worries, concerns and issues with someone is often a great resource in times of need and we would all like to be listened to with unconditional regard in a non-judgemental, empathetic and caring way.
The relationship between Therapist and Client is of crucial importance and is characterised by respect, acceptance, warmth and confidentiality. There is an understanding that the therapeutic work is a journey of learning for both participants and that the only expert on an individual is the individual him/herself.
We are bringing awareness to what we are noticing in the present: thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, emotions; allowing things to be just as it is in this moment, without forming an opinion, without trying to push it away and without trying to attach to it, follow it around or become immersed in it.
By paying attention in this way, we come to notice through practice that far from being fixed or solid, there is a continuous, albeit at times subtle, shift in our thoughts, emotions and feelings. Our tendency as humans is to want to cling onto pleasant thoughts and feelings whilst pushing away and rejecting unpleasant emotions or sensations; once we become more aware of the arising and passing away of all these processes, we can also start to become more aware of the choices we are able to make around how we react or interact with them.
During the sessions an awareness of what is happening in the moment is used to investigate our inner processes - feelings, sensations, thoughts, attitudes and their expression in the body. This is particularly important when dealing with issues of distress, anxiety, depression or our responses to living in a pressurised and complicated world.
Mindfulness - the witness to our present experience
In general, counselling tends to be shorter term work, sometimes time limited – for example to 6, 12 or 20 sessions – and might seek to focus on specific issues.
Training for counsellors tends to be correspondingly shorter than that of psychotherapists, whose training is most often at post-graduate level, takes several years to complete and in which the therapist themselves undertake personal psychotherapy so they can work on their own issues in order to increase their supportive capacities.
Trained psychotherapists, therefore, offer you the opportunity to enquire into issues at a deeper level as they understand themselves the nature of suffering and self-enquiry.
The concept of mindfulness is essentially about paying attention to what is happening at the present moment, without judging things. It’s not about relaxing or ‘trying to be’ calm – it is about witnessing whatever is happening in our mind and our body and suspending the critical commentary that so often comes with our emotions and thoughts.
Core Process Psychotherapy (CPP) has its roots both in a Buddhist understanding of human experience and the techniques and developments of Western psychology.
This is contained in the concept of the integration of body, mind and spirit and Core Process includes aspects of psycho-dynamics, body psychotherapy, trans-personal psychotherapy and Buddhist psychology. With its roots in ancient traditions and modern techniques CPP attempts to go beyond symptoms and to bring an engagement with living life to the full.