«Buddhist communities in the United States and beyond have been shaped by psychological interpretation for nearly two centuries. Leading Asian Buddhist figures and leaders of Asian Buddhist communities used psychological theories to legitimate and explain their teachings—from Dharmapāla and Soen in the 19th century to Suzuki and Nyanaponika in the 20th century and to the Dalai Lama in the 21st century. US “convert” Buddhist communities, from the Zen Centers of the 1950s and 1960s to the so-called “insight” meditation groups of the 1990s, often simply assumed without discussion that Buddhist concepts such as rebirth should be viewed as psychological metaphors. These communities may not have always consciously drawn on psychological frames in their practice of a Buddhism that was understood to be, by definition, fundamentally psychological (as discussed in “Discovery of the Psychological Buddhism”). However, a marked turn was taken through the 1990s as a growing number of voices began to advocate explicitly for the active use of psychotherapeutic insights and practices within Buddhist communities.
Contemporary psychoanalytic clinician Paul Cooper suggests that the psychotherapeutic process can help unblock unconscious material that can otherwise thwart Buddhist meditators. Meanwhile, as Ann Gleig has discussed, “teacher scandals” are often cited as a prime example of how psychotherapeutic, and specifically psychoanalytic, theories can be essential for Buddhist communities. Psychoanalytic teachings, it is suggested, can help these communities work through the idealization of authority figures and transform an unhealthy repression of sexual desire into creative sublimation. Claims that psychodynamic concepts could be of benefit have not only come from psychologists who may be inclined to think their work has utility.»
Ira Helderman. Psychological Interpreters of Buddhism