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Buddhist temple offers psychological relief

Temple heals by lending a friendly ear for troubles

Buddhist temple offers psychological relief
A special correspondent, Tokyo

November 29, 2011

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The centuries-old Shoujoukein temple in Kyoto has long been a refuge for spiritual renewal and prayer. For the last two decades, it has also become a focus of psychological counseling for those in need of emotional renewal. Venerable Masahiko Une presides over the temple’s counseling program, which offers accreditation in, among other things, two branches of psychotherapy: neurolinguistic programming, or NLP, and “family constellations,” a treatment program based on the research of a former Catholic priest. Venerable Une joined the Buddhist priesthood at the age of 26. He later founded the training program in response to the many requests he received from visitors to the temple seeking psychological guidance. “If they had problems pertaining to their family alters, that I could understand,” says Venerable Une. “But these days, people’s personal problems have grown so complex. I felt that I couldn’t fundamentally resolve their problems simply by offering a friendly ear.” Une needed something more to offer those seeking his assistance – many of whom, he says, are Catholics. “I studied all the Buddhist arts, like exorcism and fortune-telling, but in that context I realized how important counseling was.” The NLP course has proven successful, with more than 150 people having completed training in the American-based psychotherapy model that seeks to train people to change behavior patterns through alternative communication methods. Une also designed healing courses based on the “family constellation” method. In this technique, developed by German psychotherapist and former Catholic priest Bert Hellinger, individuals are encouraged to unravel the threads of family relationships that have become “entangled” and, in the process, better understand the problems that result. This, proponents say, allows people to begin to address the root of those problems within themselves. Venerable Une says that it is important for prospective counselors to understand a variety of counseling techniques so they can respond effectively to the needs of those seeking help.
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