There are numerous potential benefits for combining meditation and psychotherapy, and many psychologists now recognize this and will make it part of their treatment plan. Yoga and meditation centers will also often work in conjunction with psychologists and patients undergoing psychotherapy to offer them additional benefits. The most often cited benefits of combining meditation and psychotherapy are that they help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can help the patient to recognize his or her patterns of thought and responses to certain things. Once these patterns are recognized, the patient can ideally begin to change them with the help of a psychotherapist; this is the basic theory behind cognitive behavioral therapy.
Many other cultures have long recognized the numerous benefits that meditation offers the body and mind. It may allow the practitioner to improve concentration and become more focused; to relieve persistent fears or stressors; and improve overall well-being. It also tends to improve mood and energy levels in everyday life, and may make people calmer and more compassionate to others, among many other benefits. When meditation and psychotherapy are combined, then, the patient often experiences all of these benefits as well as heightened improvements related to the therapy.
One of the reasons people often find themselves in therapy is because they become stuck in habitual thought or behavior patterns. These patterns might contribute to mental disorders such as anxiety or depression, or they might make it difficult to maintain relationships or hold down a job. Psychotherapy attempts to help people break these habitual thoughts and behaviors, but it can be a real challenge. When combined with meditation, however, many people are able to view firsthand the way that habitual thoughts go through their minds, and will eventually learn that it is within their power to entertain those thoughts or not. Meditation and psychotherapy naturally complement and boost each other.
Combining meditation and psychotherapy also allows the patient the opportunity to sit quietly and take a step back from the stress and anxiety of everyday life. This simple act of focusing on the breath for even just a few minutes every day can significantly help to reduce feelings of anxiety, and may be able to prevent panic attacks for people suffering from a panic disorder. Many people find that this also helps them to gain some perspective, and to stop viewing themselves in a self-centered way; they often then return to therapy with greater insights and ideas to discuss than they otherwise would have.