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Buddhist Psychology Training

January – May, 2022
with Matthew Brensilver, PhD

The application period is now closed. The program is full.

Only when one has truly made oneself a patient can one become a healer. In practicing mindfulness meditation and studying Buddhist psychology, we become the patient. So much goodness unfolds from this sincerity. Through our practice, we come to understand ourselves, affirm ourselves, and ultimately, transform ourselves. Our own transformation is then leveraged for the welfare of the people we serve.

The classic description of empathy—to stand in someone else’s shoes—presumes that we already know what it is like to stand in our own shoes. With striking clarity, mindfulness reveals what it’s like to stand in our own experience. The intimacy of this encounter with ourselves provides a basis for deep compassion and accurate empathy. This program is not merely about learning techniques to add to one’s therapeutic repertoire: it is a recognition that, in an important sense, you are the intervention and cultivation of your own being enhances your effectiveness.

This four-month training for therapists, educators and those in allied fields, will provide an immersion in Buddhist psychology and the meditation practices that illuminate our minds, foster goodness and transform habits that compound suffering. We’ll dive into the scientific research on mindfulness and its increasing prominence in psychotherapeutic interventions exploring data regarding the efficacy of mindfulness and the mechanisms through which mindfulness confers its benefits. The training will examine the convergences and tensions between clinical research and Buddhist psychology and describe ways to integrate mindfulness into treatment. We’ll consider possible contraindications of mindfulness and how to tailor the intervention to individuals. Please join us.

Course Outline and Themes

Each retreat day will consist of lectures by Matthew, guided meditation practice, and exploration of the themes in your ‘home group.’

The themes addressed with include:

  • Exploration of construct of mindfulness as a state, trait and practice
  • The ways Buddhist practice can function as a psychotherapy and the ways it has aims outside the therapeutic realm
  • The hypothesized mechanisms of action of Buddhist practice - how the practice ‘gets under the skin’
  • The role of equanimity in developing emotional balance and growing freedom
  • Understanding the categories of meditation practice
  • How Buddhist practice supports emotion regulation
  • Buddhist wisdom in meeting shame
  • Approaches to anxiety and worry
  • How practice supports us to manage countertransference
  • Wise use of clinical and spiritual power
  • How Buddhist practice develops general clinical skills - listening, empathy, intuition - and supports the well-being of the people we serve
  • Teaching heart practices, including loving-kindness and compassion practices
  • The safety of mindfulness practices and efforts to avoid harm or adverse effects of practice
  • The fragility of identity and the teachings on anatta, or not-self
  • The relationship between self-love and anatta


This training is designed for therapists, educators and those in allied fields. Participants are recommended to have attended at least one (1) multi-day residential retreat or multi-day online retreat with an Insight Meditation teacher or community (e.g. Spirit Rock, Insight Meditation Society, Insight Retreat Center, etc.) prior to the start of the training.

Program Includes

  • Format: Online via Zoom
  • Commitment: two 2-day retreats, three 1-day retreats & self-study.
  • Participation is limited to 100 participants.
  • Participation in the program will be confirmed once program requirements are verified.

Program Dates

Program training period is January – May 2022. Specific training dates below. All meeting times are: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

  • January 8-9; 9:00am - 4:00pm PT
  • February 12; 9:00am - 4:00pm PT
  • March 12; 9:00am - 4:00pm PT
  • April 9; 9:00am - 4:00pm PT
  • April 30-May 1; 9:00am - 4:00pm PT

Participation and Attendance Guidelines

Your participation in this training is important. The cohesion of the group is an important aspect of this training, so participation serves both your own development as well as the group. We ask that you commit to the dates and to participate wholeheartedly.

For participants not wishing to receive CE credits: Attendance at both three-day retreats (January and May) is mandatory. We expect that all participants will also attend each monthly daylong, however, we understand that sometimes there are unavoidable emergencies. If a participant must miss one of the daylongs, they will need to watch the Zoom recording prior to the next retreat.

For participants wishing to receive CE credits: In order to receive Continuing Education Credits, participants must attend all sessions live, on time, and in full. Your attendance is tracked carefully to grant your CE credits. Board regulations prohibit partial credit for partial attendance, therefore, incomplete attendance nullifies CE credit eligibility. No exceptions. More information on Continuing Education (CE) credits below

Continuing Education (CE) Credits Available

This program offers 18 CE credits for $180 for psychologists and California licensed MFTs, LCSWs, LEPs, LPCCs, nurses, and chiropractors, licensed by the APA, California BBS, BRN, or BCE.*

Teachings are appropriate for health care professionals as well as the general public. Care providers will find that the teachings, practices, and immersion in nature during this daylong will aid in their emotional regulation and stress-reduction, offering them another means for managing burnout. By understanding our place in the broader web of life, care providers can also strengthen their capacity for empathy and compassion.

Learning Objectives for participating health care professionals-
At the end of the program you will better able to:

  • Describe at least two of the overlaps and differences between mindfulness-based treatment and Buddhist psychology
  • Describe the three clusters of meditative practice: attentional, constructive, deconstructive
  • List five types of emotion regulation
  • Describe the relevance of equanimity for emotional regulation
  • Describe how evolutionary biology informs contemporary understandings of emotion
  • Describe the parallels between Buddhist practice and exposure therapy
  • Explain the role of inflexible self-definition in the generation of difficult emotion
  • Explain the role of the brain’s default mode network and self-referential thought in emotional regulation
  • Describe Buddhist approaches to shame
  • Explain the differences between self-esteem and self-compassion
  • Describe how Buddhist practice is relevant for enhancing the therapeutic alliance
  • Describe three ways in which clinician mindfulness helps manage countertransference
  • Describe Buddhist approaches to anxiety

*Please note:

  • For those with a different license or with a license from a licensing board different than those listed above, please contact your licensing board directly to ask if CE credit from the above-approved sponsors is accepted. Spirit Rock does not confirm applicability of credit for those with licenses different than those listed. Spirit Rock is a provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number CEP16905 for 18 contact hours.
  • Credit is awarded for instructional time only and does not include extended silent meditation, if offered.
  • For full Provider information, and additional CEC information, including attendance requirements, cancellation, and grievance policies, please visit our Continuing Education Credit information page.*


  • Sliding scale: $1,008-$2,000
  • Scholarship rate: $450 and $750. Scholarships are very limited and reserved for those who are truly experiencing financial hardship. Program fees include financial support for the teacher.
  • Participation in the program will be confirmed once program requirements are verified. Be sure you meet the requirements!

Cancellation Policy

Note: fees reduced for scholarship recipients

  • If you cancel >1 week prior to program start — $50 cancellation fee*
  • If cancel between 1 week and 2 days prior to program start — $100 cancellation fee*
  • If cancel <2 days prior to program start — No refunds

Matthew Brensilver

Matthew Brensilver, PhD, served as a Buddhist chaplain at USC and teaches about the intersection of mindfulness and mental health at UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center and with Mindful Schools. He serves on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, and completed the Spirit Rock/IMS teacher training program and regularly offers retreats at Spirit Rock and the Insight Retreat Center. He spent years doing research on addiction treatment at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine and continues to be interested in the unfolding dialogue between dharma and science.

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Join us in this four-month immersion in Buddhist psychology and the meditation practices that illuminate our minds, foster goodness and transform habits that compound suffering. 

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