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Buddhist Psychology Training:
Scientific Intersections and Clinical Applications of Dharma

January – May 2024
with Matthew Brensilver, PhD



Deepen your understanding of meditation and nourish your work with clients in this four-month training designed for clinicians, counselors, mindfulness teachers, and others providing mental health support. Join a community of peers for an in-depth exploration of mindfulness, Dharma, and science that will support both your personal practice and your work with others.

This program is designed with mental health professionals in mind, but is open to anyone with a sincere interest in the integration of Buddhism and psychological science.

Through meditation, Dharma talks, discussions, small group explorations, and clinical case studies, you will develop greater confidence in applying mindfulness-based interventions with clients while enhancing your understanding of Buddhist psychology and meditation practices that illuminate our minds, foster goodness, and transform habits that compound suffering. This training is ideal for those who wish to explore their own minds and hearts as a springboard for best serving their clients, rather than those who are primarily seeking coaching on the implementation of mindfulness-based treatment manuals.

As counselors, we know that only when we’ve truly made ourselves a patient can we become a healer. Through our practice, we become the patient and come to understand, affirm, and ultimately, transform ourselves. This transformation then ripples outwards to our clients and community. This training brings both sides of ourselves—patient and healer—together as we practice and learn in community.

In the course of our time together, 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. We will also examine the convergences and tensions between clinical research and Buddhist psychology and consider ways to integrate mindfulness into treatment. We’ll explore 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, guided meditation practice, and will often include a case study where one of the participants receives clinical supervision from Matthew based on their client’s clinical situation.

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


  • Completion of at least one silent multi-day residential or multi-day online Insight Meditation retreat recommended by the start of the program (e.g. Spirit Rock, IMS, IRC, etc.)
    • Note: Participation in this program is by application only. It is designed with mental health professionals in mind, but is open to anyone with a sincere interest in the integration of Buddhism and psychological science. Opportunity to participate will be confirmed once program requirements and fit have been verified.

Program Includes

  • Format: Online via Zoom
  • Commitment: two 2-day retreats, three 1-day retreats, optional office hours (to be announced), and self-study.

Program Dates

Program training period is January – May 2024. Specific training dates below. All meeting times are: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

  • Sat-Sun, January 6-7
  • Sat, February 10
  • Sat, March 9
  • Sat, April 13
  • Sat-Sun, May 4-5

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 two-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 applicable for psychologists and California licensed MFTs, LCSWs, LEPs, LPCCs, nurses, and chiropractors.

Teachings are appropriate for health care professionals as well as the general public. 

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

CEC Schedule: (All times in US Pacific Time)
Full attendance is required daily 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  

Schedule: (Full attendance is required daily 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Partial credit for partial attendance is prohibited by board regulations. CEC certificate is only available for CEC participants with complete attendance. Times are listed in Pacific time.) CEC Schedule:

January 6
9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. | Guided meditation
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | Discourse

January 7, February 10, March 9, April 13, & May 4
9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. | Guided meditation
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | Discourse
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Discourse & Consultation

May 5
9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. | Guided meditation
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | Discourse

Attendance Requirements: Attendance is tracked automatically and will be verified.  To be eligible for CE credits, participants are required to:

  • Register and pay for CECs by midnight the day before the program.
  • Attend in full: Join the program by Zoom App or web browser, not dialing in by phone, within the first 15-minutes of the start of the program, staying logged in and engaged for the duration of the program, for every session of the program;
  • To enable automated attendance tracking, please use the same email address used to register for the program to register for zoom and complete the evaluation;
  • Complete the online CEC evaluation within 1 week of receiving it - this is different from the course survey.  The CEC evaluation will be emailed within 1 week of the end of the program to all CEC participants who attended the program in full.
  • Participants who do not complete the online CEC evaluation within 1-week from receiving it will not be eligible for the Certificate of Attendance;
  • CEC participants with incomplete attendance will not be emailed the CEC evaluation. If a participant does not receive the CEC evaluation within one week of the program, it is the participants responsibility to contact Spirit Rock within two weeks of the end of the program if they believe their incomplete attendance record is inaccurate. CEC records are closed two weeks after the program.
  • It is the responsibility of the participant to ensure adequate internet reliability and bandwidth. Incomplete attendance nullifies CEC eligibility as board regulations prohibit partial credit for partial attendance. Certificates of Attendance are only available for those who complete the attendance requirement and submit their electronic evaluation within the stated time frame.

Important Notes:

  • If you are licensed by a board different than those listed on the program description, and your governing board does not accept the credits, you will not be eligible for a refund or credit for the fees paid, nor will Spirit Rock or the Spiritual Competency Academy be responsible.
  • The CEC fee is not refundable.


  • Sliding scale: $2525-$5000
  • Scholarship rates: $750-$2025. Scholarships are very limited and reserved for those who are truly experiencing financial hardship.
  • Program fees include financial support for the teacher.

Cancellation Policy

$75 non-refundable, flat fee for all applicants on or before Dec 1, 2023 (deducted from a 25% minimum deposit)
15% fee* = Dec 2, 2023 - Jan 5, 2024
30% fee* = Jan 6 - 20, 2024
No refunds = On or after Jan 21, 2024
*Fee deducted from refund; fee is a percentage of the total amount agreed to pay.

Matthew Brensilver

Matthew Brensilver, MSW, PhD teaches retreats at the Insight Retreat Center, Spirit Rock and other Buddhist centers. He was previously program director for Mindful Schools and for more than a decade, was a core teacher at Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. Matthew worked as a clinical social worker, serving severely and persistently mentally ill adults and adolescents. He subsequently earned a PhD from the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at USC where he was a Provost’s Fellow. His dissertation examined the mechanisms of risk and resilience in maltreated adolescents in a large, longitudinal study in South Los Angeles.

Before committing to teach meditation full-time, he spent years doing research on addiction pharmacotherapy at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine. Each summer, he lectures at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center on the intersections between mindfulness, science and psychotherapy. Matthew is the co-author of two books about meditation during adolescence and continues to be interested in the unfolding dialogue between Buddhism and science. He serves on the Board of Directors at Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Center.

View Matthew's upcoming programs.



98% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the training supported their understanding of the use of mindfulness and Buddhist principles in their professional role.

“Matthew embodied all that I hope to be as psychologist and a human being. His essence as a human was perhaps one of the most profound learnings. His understanding of both Buddhism and Psychology was outstanding. I gained a felt sense and understanding of how to apply ideas to my clinical practice that I will hold as precious in my heart always.”

“I was consistently moved by the dharmic material. The instructor shared his immense experience and intelligence with his huge heart. What more could a student ask for?”

“I love all the resources and will be revisiting all the content. The most meaningful thing is that my practice has really shifted in this rather profound way. Maybe it’s like when you are looking through a kaleidoscope and you keep getting kind of wonky patterns, then you shift, and suddenly, holy crap there is a whole new world in there that is just beautiful. Well, that kind of happened for me during this class.”

“Matthew's transparency on the craft of teaching mindfulness had a big impact on me.”

“I appreciated the depth and compassion for ourselves and others - the blending of psychology and Buddhism in a way I had not yet experienced.”

“The information was so rich all around, and relevant both personally and professionally. I'm finding myself unable to identify one or two learnings.”

“I took notes throughout the training to track what felt most resonant or important to me. I continue to go back to those notes and imagine I will continue to return to them going forward- there is such a wealth of information here that I will continue to mine for years to come.”

“Matthew’s stories and vulnerability embody the work.”

“Wow! This class was so powerful and I was frequently moved by Matthew's presence and ability in navigating meaningful, heartfelt discussions, pulling in scientific rigor, and complex therapeutic examples/themes. My heart feels full from this class and I'm feeling some sadness that it's coming to an end. This class has helped re-energize me in my clinical work and in my own formal practice. Thank you so much!”


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Join us in this five-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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