Mindfulness-based Therapy In Prisons

Daniel Troyak

Daniel Troyak

Australia’s first full-time Buddhist prison chaplain. Daniel also offers Mindfulness-based Therapy sessions from his private counselling practice. For more information, please visit www.BuddhistCounselling.net

Within NSW Corrections, amongst inmates and staff, and much like ‘on the outside’, Buddhism is quite fashionable. People love to quote the Buddha, but rarely implement his teachings to their lives.


The Buddha’s teachings, also known as Dharma, are altruistic, loving, compassionate and transformative. However, it also requires an authentic teacher and serious commitment by the practitioner.


“It’s you that has to do the work”


Often when I’m presenting the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), inmates are shocked to hear, the Buddha is not our saviour.


We often hold the view that someone will save us, like a doctor, a psychologist or life partner from ourselves and bad habits. “It’s you that has to do the work”, I explain.


I’ve been using Mindfulness-based Therapy as a prison chaplain for over 5 years and I honestly think I’ve heard it all. The work I do is to support, motivate and encourage inmates to do better. In a private, confidential and safe space inmates can offload and share their life story.


It’s to a chaplain, that one can express their deepest trauma or regret and have it heard with an open heart. No judgment and no shame.


Reoffending behaviour happens because we don’t know our habits, our attachments and desires. We go about living life thinking, this is how it’s meant to be.


“Did you know there’s another way to live?”


As a Therapist and Buddhist chaplain I am committed to reducing reoffending behaviour by helping inmates understand the key skills needed for emotional processing, healing and growth.


Through the deep and positive teachings of the Buddha inmates learn about the nature of the mind and begin to take control of their lives.


We need to know ourselves, the nature of the mind and become aware of our negativity and positivity.


When I ask an inmate, “did you know there’s another way to live?”, they often tell me no.


Meditation is the way to bring about mental stability.

Most of us live our lives recalling the past and fantasising about the future. Who wants to be in the moment when you’re in a prison? It’s our mind that’s usually the prison.


You don’t have to be in a prison to feel imprisoned.


Bringing about mental stability allows us to reflect and contemplate. It’s from this mind we can invoke a healthy feeling of regret and remorse for past negative actions. Only then can we commit never to do them again.


Today, some would argue the Buddha was the world’s best cognitive therapist. Witnessing positive change over and over again, I would tend to agree!



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