There are correspondences between the world of psychotherapy and that of religion. Some have suggested that psychotherapy is a modern profession that tries to fill in the gap for people in the age of technology left by the loss of religious faith and institutions. It is certainly true that research repeatedly shows that those with religious faith generally enjoy better mental health than those who lack it, but can this deficiency be remedied by rational technical means?
Along came Buddhism, and for many this has seemed like a religion that was not a religion, which, at best, offered the advantages without the drawbacks of the traditional faiths: inner development without dogmatic or authoritarian overtones. Could Buddhism be harnessed to the technical rational revolution at the core of the modernist paradigm? Could it solve the problems of alienation, anomism, loneliness and powerlessness that modernism seems to have inadvertently given rise to without undermining the rationalist, individualistic agenda?
In psychotherapy there has been a long standing debate and sometimes opposition between what we can call technical and generic approaches. In the technical approach improvement is attributed to the application of a particular, defineable technique or procedure. A simple example is the treatment of specific phobias by desensitization procedures. Here a specific technique is appropriate for a specific ailment. The psychological method constitutes a remedy. The personality of the professional is of little importance. The technique can be taught. The efficacy of the methodology can be researched in the same manner as is used for drug treatments. The conceptualization fits neatly into an allopathic medical paradigm.