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Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy

Here at CBCT HQ we love a book review, mainly because we love books!

Our courses are filled to the brim with chapters of many books to read as part of the course (the flipped learning part) and we are always on the look out for new ones.

Paul, our admin assistant, read an interesting book recently which he took much from. I asked him to write a book review for you all to spread the love for this particular book and here it is.

Thanks Paul!


Carol Belsey

Director of Learning


“Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation”

by Bruce Tift (2015)


When I really enjoy a book and find it helpful, then I mark the important passages with small post-it notes.  This book is festooned with them, and I must have marked at least 50 pages!

Two of my favourite authors are Irvin Yalom and Brene Brown; I found that this book dovetails very well with both their writing and my own way of thinking in an existential way.

The book aims to show that we are ‘Already Free’ (if only we could recognise it).  Tift challenges us to live in the ‘here and now’ – to allow ourselves to enjoy life’s experiences and to be authentic. To just stop and smell the roses!  By realising our own limitations and vulnerabilities we may grow into the best person we can be.

Tift reminds us of the importance of our early experiences: the critical parent or thoughtless comment from an adult which hurt us. When our ‘caretaker’ does not offer enough care in the form of unconditional love, children are like sponges and ‘they tend to absorb whatever their parents have repressed and won’t deal with.’ (p144).

As a result, to protect ourselves, we shut down our feelings and can blame ourselves and feel unworthy of love.  This is where counselling comes in – it provides a safe space for a person to express their deepest fears and concerns in a supportive environment.  Anxiety, shame and guilt can all be explored in a non-judgemental setting.

I recently prepared a talk about the German philosopher Martin Heidegger – I was very struck by his idea of us being ‘thrown’ into the world and how important it is to experience the world (being-in-the-world). This involves us engaging with the world however difficult, challenging and scary it might seem and this links to Tift who suggests we should ‘be completely committed to experiencing our lives – regardless of circumstance.’ (p9).

It feels like Tift is challenging us to stop waiting (for something to happen and then being disappointed) and to start to live – embrace the anxiety! As he says, ‘Experiencing our worst fears doesn’t kill us and experiencing our greatest hope doesn’t save us.’ (p165).

I like Tift’s ideas of setting boundaries and having clear authentic communication with others. It’s good to be aware, within relationships, of what is our stuff and what stuff belongs to the other.  It’s all about us negotiating our behaviours within our relationships and not blaming the other for things that are in our control (‘our stuff)!

For me, this book brings together lots of things I knew and others that I have learnt since becoming a counsellor and packages them into a single inspirational publication.

Tift doesn’t suggest that making changes is easy; he allows us to see that by making changes we can enjoy life fully and know that we are free.


Paul CBCT Admin Assistant

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