Why should I work with a psychologist? Isn't it better to solve my own problems?
People in Western society tend to be very independent. It can be great to solve our own problems or forge our own path to a goal. The question is, how well has this worked for you so far? If you are experiencing intense, painful emotions, negative, repetitive thoughts, abusive situations, or an ongoing "stuckness" in life, and if nothing you have done on your own has helped, I hope you will seek professional guidance. Life is short and suffering is, well, suffering. A good way to exercise your independence is to take charge of your care, but taking charge does not mean you have to do it all by yourself!
If I do need help, how do I find the right helper?
Carefully. Put some effort into it. Ask, think, look and feel. Ask friends for recommendations, read websites, talk on the phone with anyone who seems interesting. While in therapy, talk regularly and directly with your psychologist about any questions or concerns that develop about your work together.
I want to learn mindfulness meditation, and many therapists claim to teach it. Why choose a psychologist trained in traditional meditation?
Very simply, a psychologist who is also a seasoned meditator may offer the best of both worlds. Though some psychologists may teach meditation, and some meditation teachers may use therapeutic techniques, many are not thoroughly educated in both systems. Buddhist psychologists are a small but growing number of doctors of psychology who are also seasoned Buddhist practitioners. Published Buddhist psychologists include Harvey Aronson, Tara Brach, Mark Epstein, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield and B. Alan Wallace. Lama Tsultrim Allione is a Western Buddhist teacher who has deeply integrated Western psychological principles into her teaching. (See Recommended Reading.)
There are many contemplative traditions. Why do you emphasize Buddhism in describing your work?
A psychologist is responsible for developing true competence in any psychotherapeutic method offered. Because my own meditation training has been Tibetan Buddhist, this is the meditation tradition from which I carefully draw as a contemplative psychologist. You do not have to be Buddhist or a practitioner of any spiritual path to benefit from some meditative methods in psychotherapy. It may matter, however, how much direct experience and training your therapist has in the methods being offered to you.