Core process psychotherapy

Core process psychotherapy practises a Buddhist awareness as the centre of a healing relationship between client and psychotherapist. It is taught at the Karuna Institute which was founded in 1984 by Maura Sills and Franklyn Sills.[1] The Karuna Institute, set in Devon, England teaches students to become core process psychotherapists through a four-year MA training validated by Middlesex University. Maura Sills is still teaching on the courses which take place there and other staff are also largely Karuna trained. After graduation students work towards accreditation with the UKCP.

Core Process Psychotherapy relies implicitly on the knowledge we have gained from depth psychology ie the work of Freud, Jung and subsequent psychoanalytic research. It makes use of transference and counter-transference as psychotherapeutic tools but it does not stop there. In practice it incorporates the tools of the Gestalt therapy and the object relations model of W.R.D. Fairbairn and Donald Winnicott into a transpersonal therapy which seeks to heal through awareness. The training is largely experiential and significant emphasis is placed on the perinatal theories of Frank Lake and William R. Emerson. The breathwork of Stanislav Grof is also implicated. The Core Process itself refers to the inherent health-seeking of the organism which the therapy is designed to catalyse.

This type of therapy is non-interpretative and allows the client to discover for him/her self, in relationship with the therapist, what s/he needs to know. The therapist and practitioner create, in Buddhist terms, an awareness field and it is a tenet of Core Process psychotherapy that awareness is of itself curative. In the experience of its exponents, then, matters brought into awareness in the consulting room are subject to unconscious healing processes as well as traditional cognitive insights. The client's awareness may also be directed during the work to the internal sensations of the body since the body is understood as a manifestation of consciousness.

Sadly there is very little written about Core Process Psychotherapy and it remains to some extent an unknown quantity even amongst professionals in the field, this is despite Maura's work for the UKCP. The training is so much an embodied, experiential approach that it has been possible to go on training students for many years without a handbook of the theory.

There are, however, some articles which Maura Sills has co-authored with Judy Lown. Licking Honey from the Razor's Edge" [2] explains that "licking honey from the razor's edge is a very appropriate description of what is called for from the Buddhist-oriented practitioner in Core Process psychotherapy. It calls for a very personal challenge of being affected, of being involved, of being engaged, of being available." [3]


Franklyn's book "Being and Becoming : Psychodynamics, Buddhism, and the Origins of Selfhood" [4] does cover associated ground.



  1. ^ Franklyn is also a pioneering practitioner and teacher of Craniosacral Biodynamics and has written on this subject. Craniosacral Biodynamics vols. I & II (North Atlantic Books, Berkley CA, 2001 & 2004)
  2. ^ published in "The Psychology of Awakening" (Rider, 1999)
  3. ^ There is also a paper given by Maura Sills to the Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association in 2005 entitled "The Field of Subliminal Mind and the Nature of Being". Copies of these papers are available from the Karuna Institute, Natsworthy Manor, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon TQ13 7TR. Her talks at Gaia House are available from http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/403/ and these also throw light on the assumptions underpinning Core Process Psychotherapy.
  4. ^ (North Atlantic Books, Berkley CA, 2009)


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