Following the Course

Zen Therapy Distance Learning Programme
Following the Course
1) Practicalities
Distance learning is an interactive process. Some students following the Distance Learning Programme will be enrolled students on the Zen Therapy (ITZI) Psychotherapy Diploma. For them this course provides the taught sequence of the course. Some students may be registered on other ITZI attendance programmes. Most will be completing the Distance Learning Programme as a course on its own, perhaps because they are practising therapists and want to integrate Buddhist psychology into their work, or from a general interest in the subject or as a course of self-development.
Whichever group you are in, keeping yourself actively engaged with the course group is the key to maintaining motivation. Check your email and the course website regularly and try to contribute something to the discussions as much as you can, even if it is only brief. The discussion threads on the course website are there to encourage the development of ideas and your thinking so it is helpful to treat them like classroom discussion and contribute as much as possible. As with any course studied by distance learning, it can be difficult to feel involved if you do not make regular contact with others. You will gain most from the course if you contribute to the learning process in an interactive way.
The Zen Therapy Buddhist Psychology Diploma (theory) will help to ground your studies experientially, to bring theories into practice and so it is useful to ask questions both of the facilitator and other people following the course.
The training programme for which this course is the core theoretical material is based directly on a model of Buddhist psychology as developed by David Brazier through the teaching of Zen Therapy, the Other Centred Approach and Esteem Theory.
Buddhism can be seen to have started with the Buddha's search for a way of understanding the existential realities of life. These are vividly represented in the story of his early life by what has become known as the teaching of the four sights. What the young Siddartha Gautama was on a path of discovery and destined to see was the way in which our mentality becomes clouded by our attempts to escape reality, and the way that all mental states are conditioned by their contexts. Buddha Shakyamuni founded a tradition grounded in an understanding of mental process and the practical application of training methods to the development of mental stability. Since his time, different Buddhist schools have added 2,500 years of experience and, through this, have developed further practices for cultivating the mind, through meditation and other mental concentration. A practical religion, the concentration on method has led to analysis of direct experience of mental processes, which have been described in the Buddhist texts. These learnings form the basis of much of the Buddhist psychology taught on this programme.

The first unit of the first module forms an introduction to the course and as such provides something of a map of some of the territory that will be covered. As such, whilst in theory it is possible to start with any of the modules, of which there are six, we recommend that everyone starts with Module One. In Unit One, we will look briefly at the history of Buddhist thought so that the psychology can be understood in terms of the historical and social context from which it emerged. We will also look at some of the broad features of Buddhist psychological models and provide an outline of the Zen Therapy approach. Finally, we will look at some examples of how Buddhist therapists have brought the thinking and practices of Buddhism into a Western arena, and the diversity of forms that have grown up from these common roots.
This provides an introduction not only to the course as a whole, but also to the study of the whole of the first module, which is concerned with providing an overview of the field of Buddhist psychology and of psychotherapy.
This section provides some basic information for following the course. You will be able to refer back to it as you go through the programme.
2) Using the Site
Please take the time to familiarise yourself with this site. Look at how the material is organised, the layout of the lessons and where you post answers and comments. Do also use the forum to introduce yourself to other students and provide some background to your reason for wanting to join the course. Some of this you might also like to share when it comes to writing out your reflections in response to unit exercises. As a rule of thumb, and considering that the course group is a closed one, the more you can feel comfortable to share personal material the more you will get from the learning process. Both Buddhism and psychotherapy have a long tradition of examine within as a means to gain insight and understand the other.

Accessing Unit Material
At the beginning of your journey through the course you will be given access to the appropriate module. Each module is made up of four units and each unit three sections. Each unit should take around a month to complete. If you have paid for three modules (one year) then you can have access to all the material but we recommend that you move onto a second module only after completing the first. So unless expressly requested, initially you will only be able to see the first module. People can start at any time during the year however we try to arrange it so that people start together at the beginning of the year.

Posting Unit Exercises and Unit Assignments
Answers and comment on the journal exercises are to be posted on the site in the section named "Exercise". You will find that the exercises listed here directly relate to those in the lesson material, so your responses to any given unit exercise will need to be posted under the relevant heading. Each question from the unit is listed as a separate discussion thread. Add your responses using the comment facility.

Unit exercises and the assignments are submitted in the same way. Please do take the time to read and comment so that we can have a wider discussion.

Discussion Forum
This facility of the website provides a space for exploring themes raised on the course. You should routinely keep a of record thoughts, feelings, observations or learnings which grow from your learning process. You may periodically review your learning and consolidate important points and reflect on this by posting up a forum discussion.
2. The Spirit of Writing for the Course
More generally this course is a space where you can share informally. Not everything you post needs to be polished. Off the cuff thoughts are as useful as considered essays as they contribute to discussion. It is often best to write spontaneously and then reflect upon your writing. Be aware of when you censor yourself and ask yourself what you are not writing down and why.

Themes which you might like to keep in mind might be:

  • Buddhist practice and teachings: The interface between these teachings and the therapy process
  • Learnings about the Buddhist models of the mind and the flow of consciousness within it
  • Learnings about therapy theory and their relationship to practice
  • Learnings about skills
  • Learnings about yourself
  • Learnings about the process of learning

3. All exercises on the course are marked Unit Exercise followed by a number and a letter. Your learning from these exercises should be posted under the relevant heading in the “Exercise” section of the website. Remember you can include digital photos so you may like to upload photos of any art work, diagrams, or other practical activities you do. Unit exercises offer a way of extending your learning and often provide an experiential way to integrate the theoretical material provided in the unit. They will help you to explore the subject of the unit through activity. Most students find the journal exercises a valuable part of the course. Please enjoy them. It is not a requirement however to complete all of the unit exercises but you should submit all assignments.

4. Your profile and the discussion sections are ways in which you can introduce yourself to others following the course. This provides a means to create a sense of online community. Do include a photo of yourself and anecdotes to illustrate your learning as these will bring your learning process alive.

You will also want to keep a private journal in which make notes about the unit exercises. Many require you to work on paper and it is good to keep all your work of this kind together. Do remember to write something about what you have learned and to read other people's responses to the exercises. Do also routinely leave comments.
3) Completing this Course
All exercises and assignments involve some participation and activity on this website. Your participation level will be monitored, and you may be asked to submit extra material if you have not contributed sufficiently to any discussion or activity to demonstrate your understanding of a topic. Sometimes you will be given guidelines on how many words should be written. Other times you are expected to participate in a more interactive way. The most important thing, however, is that your responses show thought. Whilst your posts can be spontaneous, they should be clear and readable, and not simply streams of un-sifted thoughts. Practical examples are particularly appropriate as they demonstrate that you have understood and can apply the theory to real life situations.

Each module has at least one essay-type question that reflects on the whole of the module material. These assignments are posted here and you will receive individual feedback from course staff. Exercises and assignments that have a stated maximum word limit give you an indication of the length of response expected. Please keep to this limit. Longer or shorter essays (greater than 10 %) may be returned. The word limit will help you keep your answers focused and creates parity.

When people go over the word limits, often, but not always, they do so because their answer is a bit unfocused. You may like to reflect on the question initially in your reflective journal and then refine your answer. Writing succinctly is a skill in itself, and many topics will be returned to in later units so you do not have to be encyclopaedic.

Although most people are conscientious and tend to err on the side of wordiness, we are obviously also concerned that students write enough to give an adequate response. Again the word limit serves as a guide for what is expected. Students who give responses that are consistently over or substantially under the word limit may be asked to “re-submit” material for the module.

The activity on this site can take the form of participative dialogue and exercises, which are monitored and facilitated by the course facilitator (or tutor). Where appropriate, he/she will make suggestions, give feedback and check out students’ understanding of topics. Feedback generally takes the form of comment, further questions, and dialogic responses. People who join the programme have different levels of knowledge and experience, so we do not allocate “marks” to assignments. We try to give helpful feedback to people at the level they are at. The course is intended to help you develop your understanding.

Practising therapists often use assignments to explore case material and, in such situations, may receive feedback on different ways of understanding a client’s situation. Preserving confidentiality must be considered in such circumstances, and this should be done by changing recognisable details on any material circulated on this course.

Discussions to assignment should be conducted through the website to involve others, though you may also have discussion with other students as individuals or small groups from time to time. The site provides message service and of course it is up to each person to decide whether they want to share personal contact details, like email address and phone numbers

Some sections of the course units include self- test questions. These are intended for your own use to check that you have grasped the main points in a paper or audio recording included in the section. When you have read a paper please use the questions to check your understanding and then re-read any parts that you have not understood.

4) Structuring of Learning
You can access the course units using the password on any computer. Do not pass on your password to anyone who is not enrolled on the course. If you wish to print off course material from the website perhaps because you find it easier to read, please do be aware of copyright restrictions. You are requested not to share this material without clear attribution to the authors or reproduce copies for circulation to others not following the course.

Each unit is intended to take one month to complete, and you will find it helpful to set time aside weekly. Please be aware that some units contain activities that need to be worked with over the whole month. Read materials briefly as soon as you can access them and try to get an overview of what you are expected to achieve each month before you start studying.

Each unit is designed to be complete in itself. The only essential additional texts are Zen Therapy and The Feeling Buddha, both by David Brazier. Both these texts have been translated into a number of different languages including Spanish, Dutch and French. Both books can be purchased in paperback and Kindle format (English language only). You will also find David’s other books useful. The ‘Recommended Reading’ list can be found by clicking the link. Other useful books are Buddhist Psychology and Other Centred Therapy, both by Caroline Brazier.

There is no prescribed reading on the course apart from the units themselves, and Zen Therapy. Do, however, read widely whilst on the programme, and, where possible, draw on your reading in answering unit questions. Books quoted should be properly referenced. Supplementary reading lists are also included in most units, but books on these are not essential.. Do also use the web to research questions. There is much good material available (though be aware that materials on the web are very mixed in quality) We will offer links to good sites from time to time.

Distance learning can be a lonely process. Motivation often depends upon stimulation. We all have different ways of getting such stimulation, but contact with others who are like-minded and on similar study paths can be very important. Reflect on your own needs for contact and find ways in which you can further interaction with others students, either via Skype, email or if in the same local area arranging peer study groups.

Please keep in regular contact with the course tutor(s) through the course website site, via e-mail or by arranging a Skype call. Tutorials are not a requirement or regular part of this programme, reflecting the way it has been designed, however tutorials can be arranged and offered on request. People sometimes find it useful if they have fallen behind and want to agree a personal strategy for working through the material and getting back up to speed.
Revised (Dec 2015.JW, OAB)