Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy

Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice

Edited by Christopher Germer and Ronald D. Siegel
Foreword by The Dalai Lama

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March 7, 2012
ISBN 9781462503766
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407 Pages
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407 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 23, 2012
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Price: $37.00 $27.75
407 Pages
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407 Pages
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Bringing together leading scholars, scientists, and clinicians, this compelling volume explores how therapists can cultivate wisdom and compassion in themselves and their clients. Chapters describe how combining insights from ancient contemplative practices and modern research can enhance the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse, suicidal behavior, couple conflict, and parenting stress. Seamlessly edited, the book features numerous practical exercises and rich clinical examples. It examines whether wisdom and compassion can be measured objectively, what they look like in the therapy relationship, their role in therapeutic change, and how to integrate them into treatment planning and goal setting. The book includes a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“A welcomed addition to a clinical social worker’s library….The editors have thoughtfully organized this book to be inclusive of multiple ways of knowing and viewing the world. It is not often that ethics, spirituality, neuroscience, philosophy, and professional development are combined into one resource for social workers. The authors approach their argument for the centrality of wisdom and compassion within psychotherapy from a Buddhist tradition; however, a practitioner from any spiritual tradition will find themes that resonate and can be applied to their work.”

Social Work and Christianity

“A...very important aspect of this book is its breadth of perspectives on the topic....Will appeal primarily to practicing psychotherapists who desire an in-depth conversation about the theory and research of compassion and wisdom because it has a heavier focus on practice than do some other volumes. The other nice aspect of this volume is that the Buddhist foundations for the concepts used in therapy are very clearly laid out. Because Part III focuses on specific clinical applications of principles of compassion and wisdom introduced throughout earlier sections, it will appeal to clinicians working with these specific groups.”


“I am very happy to see that ancient teachings and practices from the Buddhist tradition can be of benefit today when they are employed by Western scientists and therapists. In today's world, many people turn to psychotherapy to understand what is making them unhappy, and to discover how to live a more meaningful life. I believe that as they come to understand compassion and wisdom more deeply, psychotherapists will be better able to help their patients and so contribute to greater peace and happiness in the world.”

—from the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“The essential message of this book is one of hope. Ably guided by the contributors to this important volume, therapists are invited to peer beyond therapeutic tools and techniques and glimpse the vast potential that compassion and wisdom hold for healing and self-transformation.”

—Zindel V. Segal, PhD, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto–Scarborough, Canada

“A rich introduction to—and rigorous exploration of—the current dynamic convergence of Buddhist psychology and Western psychotherapy. Thoughtful and eminently practical, this timely volume will be a key reference for counselors and psychotherapists, and is also important reading for students preparing for careers in the field. It will serve those looking for ways to offer the fruits of their personal mindfulness practice to their clients and colleagues.”

—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Love

“The deep message of the movement toward acceptance- and mindfulness-based methods is that the world without and the world within are interlinked. We need to begin to treat ourselves as we would want others to treat us: with kindness, patience, and wise attention. This book explores profound issues and describes powerful new methods for clinical practice that will carry far beyond the doors of our consulting rooms.”

—Steven C. Hayes, PhD, codeveloper of acceptance and commitment therapy; Foundation Professor of Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno

“With this enlightening volume, Germer and Siegel bring the dialogue between contemporary psychotherapy and Buddhist psychology to a new level, proposing that compassion and wisdom—like mindfulness—are capacities that can be deliberately cultivated to promote health and well-being. Enlisting contributions from fields as diverse as neuroscience, theology, trauma studies, and positive psychology, Germer and Siegel have put together a book that is stimulating, scholarly, and, above all, clinically relevant. This book illuminates fresh directions and resources for psychotherapy, bringing an inspiring sense of possibility to the 'impossible profession.'”

—David J. Wallin, PhD, private practice, Mill Valley and Albany, California

“This book examines the nature of wisdom and compassion in psychotherapy from every conceivable perspective. Buddhist psychology, neurobiological foundations, psychological research, and clinical applications all receive thoughtful and comprehensive treatment. Clinicians, scholars, teachers, and students interested in the alleviation of human suffering will appreciate this volume, especially its emphasis on the cultivation of mindfulness and loving-kindness skills as paths toward the wisdom and compassion that are so essential to effective psychotherapy.”

—Ruth A. Baer, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky

Table of Contents

Introduction, Christopher K. Germer & Ronald D. Siegel

I. What Are Wisdom and Compassion? Why Should We Care?

1. Wisdom and Compassion: Two Wings of a Bird, Ronald D. Siegel & Christopher K. Germer

2. Mindful Presence: A Foundation for Compassion and Wisdom, Tara Brach

3. Building Lives of Compassion and Wisdom, Barbara L. Fredrickson

II. The Meaning of Compassion

4. Compassion in Buddhist Psychology, John Makransky

5. The Compassionate Therapist, Elissa Ely

6. The Science of Self-Compassion, Kristin D. Neff

7. Cultivating Compassion in Psychotherapy, Christopher K. Germer

8. The Neurobiology of Compassion, Richard J. Davidson

III. The Meaning of Wisdom

9. Wisdom in Buddhist Psychology, Andrew Olendzki

10. The Wise Psychotherapist, Ronald D. Siegel

11. The Science of Wisdom: Implications for Psychotherapy, Robert J. Sternberg

12. The Wisdom of Connection, Janet Surrey & Judith V. Jordan

13. Self and No-Self in Psychotherapy, Jack Engler & Paul R. Fulton

14. Neurobiological Foundations of Wisdom, Thomas W. Meeks, B. Rael Cahn, & Dilip V. Jeste

IV. Clinical Applications

15. Wisdom, Compassion, and Suicidal Patients, Marsha M. Linehan & Anita Lungu

16. Substance Abuse and Relapse Prevention, G. Alan Marlatt, Sarah Bowen, & M. Kathleen B. Lustyk

17. Anxiety Disorders: Acceptance, Compassion, and Wisdom, Lizabeth Roemer & Susan M. Orsillo

18. Depression: Suffering in the Flow of Life, Paul Gilbert

19. Working with Trauma: Mindfulness and Compassion, John Briere

20. The Heart of Couple Therapy, Richard Borofsky & Antra K. Borofsky

V. In and Around the Consultation Room

21. Mindful Parenting as a Path to Wisdom and Compassion, Trudy Goodman, Susan Kaiser Greenland, & Daniel J. Siegel

22. Drawing on the Wisdom of Religious Traditions in Psychotherapy, Kenneth I. Pargament & Carol Ann Faigin

23. Compassion and Wisdom: Growing through Ethics, Stephanie P. Morgan

About the Editors

Christopher Germer, PhD, has a private practice in mindfulness- and compassion-based psychotherapy in Arlington, Massachusetts, and is a part-time Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance. He is a founding faculty member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and of the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion. His books include The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook and The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (for the general public) and Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program, Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy, and Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, Second Edition (for professionals). Dr. Germer lectures and leads workshops internationally. His website is https://chrisgermer.com.

Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD, is Assistant Professor of Psychology, part time, at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance, where he has taught since the early 1980s. He is a longtime student of mindfulness meditation and is a faculty and board member at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. Dr. Siegel teaches internationally about the application of mindfulness practices in psychotherapy and other fields, and maintains a private practice in Lincoln, Massachusetts. His books include The Mindfulness Solution, for general readers, as well as several acclaimed works for professionals.


Antra Borofsky, EdM, private practice, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Richard Borofsky, EdD, private practice, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Sarah Bowen, PhD, Addictive Behaviors Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Tara Brach, PhD, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Washington, DC

John Briere, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

B. Rael Cahn, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Irvine, California

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

Elissa Ely, MD, Department of Mental Health, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston, Massachusetts

Jack Engler, PhD, private practice and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Carol Ann Faigin, PhD, VA Maine Health Care System, Augusta, Maine

Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Paul R. Fulton, EdD, private practice, Newton, Massachusetts

Christopher K. Germer, PhD, private practice and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Paul Gilbert, PhD, Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom

Trudy Goodman, EdM, InsightLA, Los Angeles, California

Susan Kaiser Greenland, JD, Inner Kids Foundation, Los Angeles, California

Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, California

Judith V. Jordan, PhD, Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts; Department of Psychology, Harvard University, and Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Anita Lungu, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

M. Kathleen B. Lustyk, PhD, Department of Psychology, Seattle Pacific University, and Departments of Psychology and Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

John Makransky, PhD, Department of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts

G. Alan Marlatt, PhD (deceased), Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Thomas W. Meeks, MD, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, California

Stephanie P. Morgan, MSW, PsyD, private practice, Manchester, Massachusetts

Kristin D. Neff, PhD, Human Development and Culture, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

Andrew Olendzki, PhD, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Barre, Massachusetts

Susan M. Orsillo, PhD, Department of Psychology, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts

Kenneth I. Pargament, PhD, Institute for Spirituality and Health, Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas; Department of Clinical Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

Lizabeth Roemer, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, Department of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California

Ronald D. Siegel, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Janet Surrey, PhD, Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts; Andover–Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts; Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, Newton, Massachusetts


Clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, counselors, and other mental health practitioners.

Course Use

May serve as a text in graduate-level psychotherapy courses.