We propose a mapping approach for relating Buddhism and trauma psychotherapy — a detailed, asymmetric analogy between a wide range of concepts on both sides. Both posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Buddhist concepts of suffering are rooted in a stubborn, preconceptual misapprehension: on the PTSD side, vivid re-experiencing of the traumatic event as still present and threatening; on the Buddhist side, misapprehension of a solid, independent self. What ends suffering on both sides is transformative insight into the respective misapprehension and realization of underlying reality. The analogy encompasses further correlations of trauma theory and treatment with Buddhist theory and meditation. We use this model to analyze trauma therapies such as cognitive behavioral prolonged exposure, EMDR, and mindfulness, and suggest new techniques drawn from deeper strata of Buddhism. This approach enhances the dialogue between Buddhism and Western psychology by respecting crucial concepts on both sides and mapping them to the mental processes of suffering and its relief.

Anthony King, PhD

University of Michigan

Grantee, Reviewer

Anthony King, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of Michigan Medical School, and faculty associate of Institute for Social Research (ISR) and Trauma, Stress, and Anxiety Research Group, is … MORE

David Lewis

Independent Researcher


Deborah Rozelle

Independent Clinical Psychologist and Researcher