Contemplative Psychotherapy
with Joel Guarna, PhD
White Pine Behavioral Health


What is Contemplative Psychotherapy?
Contemplative Psychotherapy is therapy that integrates Western and Eastern approaches to the alleviation of psychological distress and suffering and to the promotion of full and authentic living.  This therapy is aimed at supporting and encouraging clients to discover and walk their own paths.  Progress on these paths is more about removing obstacles to our basic wholeness than fixing dysfunction or removing symptoms.  These approaches tend to be more in accord with Eastern philosophies than with the mechanistic and medical models that dominate our current healthcare environment. 

Therapy Style
My therapy style is most influenced by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and the so-called third wave behavioral therapies (e.g., Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Functional Analytic Psychotherapy).  ACT is a contemporary cognitive-behavioral therapy shaped by many influences, including Gestalt psychotherapy, the human potential movements, and most directly, behavioral analysis. 

ACT's roots are firmly in a Western science of human behavior, though its models and methods readily mesh with Eastern ideas about human suffering and its alleviation.  I believe this latter aspect of ACT lends it to be integrated with approaches drawn from Buddhist Psychology and permits it to provide a strong foundation for a form of Contemplative Psychotherapy. 

My interest in Buddhist Psychology, and incorporating mindfulness and contemplative practices into my psychotherapy, dates back to my graduate training but has evolved into a far richer and more effective integration only in recent years.  My experience with ACT, along with a deepening of my own dharma study and practice, encouraged me to make this shift.

The impact of my interest in Contemplative Psychotherapy on the actual therapy you receive depends on your preferences and your presenting concerns.  It is important to note that you need not have any interest in Eastern philosophies or approaches to do therapy with me and the mindfulness and meditative methods I incorporate are not religious practices.  In fact, for the majority of my clients, my interest in Buddhist Psychology would not be apparent in session and their therapy does not look or feel different. 

I incorporate mindfulness and acceptance processes into therapy for many clients; however this has less to do with my interest in Buddhist Psychology and is more based on the growing body of research supporting the effectiveness of these approaches.  Those issues aside, if you have an interest in meditation and Eastern philosophies, our therapy together may have a more distinctive East/West and Contemplative Psychotherapy feel to it.

If you have any questions about these issues, please do not hesitate to ask.   More about my therapy.

Personal Practice
My own contemplative practice is most influenced by Zen Buddhism and by various authors who have begun to articulate uniquely Western and non-religious iterations of Buddhism (e.g., Stephen Batchelor).

My personal practice informs my understanding of my clientsboth their difficulties and their strengthsand enhances my ability to be present with them during their crises and struggles.


You can obtain additional information about my work at the main page for White Pine Behavioral Health, my private practice in Portland. 

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please contact me at 207-272-8500. 


You can read about Contemplative Psychotherapy at

Main Page | Dr. Guarna

Office Location & Mailing Address
25 Middle Street
Portland, ME  04101