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Faith-Based and Secular Meditation
Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications
Raymond Monsour Scurfield
ISBN: 978-0-87101-542-6. 2019. Item #5426. 252 pages.
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Drawing on his 40+ years of meditation practice, experience as a Vietnam veteran, and decades of psychotherapy work with his clients, Ray Scurfield demonstrates how to introduce meditation into treatment for clients with posttraumatic stress disorder or everyday stress. His 12-step method includes selecting a meditation technique that is best suited for each client, preparing for physical challenges during meditation, how to focus on breathing and manage inner and outer distractions, practicing together during sessions, and helping clients create a meditation routine.

This is a unique, creative, and practical book. Scurfield incorporates 100+ authenticated proverbs and sayings to illustrate key points. These range from Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian, to African, Native Hawaiian, and contemporary music and sports, e.g., “What you put attention on grows in your life,” “The gift is next to the wound,” and “Watch the (base)ball hit the bat.”

Using real-world examples, Scurfield shows that meditation can be practiced with or without a religious or spiritual element. He offers reassurances for secular-based clients that meditative practices are not in conflict with their nonreligious views. Conversely, he explains how faith-based approaches can have a complementary relationship with religion and prayer.

This book focuses on four types of meditation: mantra-based (“I am courageous,” “Jesus, give me strength”), breath-count based (7-11, 2-4-2-6), mindfulness-based (focus on sight, sound, touch), and mantra/breath hybrids. Scurfield uniquely describes how “spot” meditations can be applied in stressful activities (e.g., stuck in traffic, disagreement with one’s partner, a serious medical appointment) to quickly reduce anxiety, anger, sadness, and posttraumatic symptoms. He also describes how to apply meditation principles and strategies to significantly enhance affirmations and prayers.

Through meditation, this unique work encourages therapists to provide a safe space for their clients to experiment with their own healing; generate solutions that mesh with their belief systems; and engage in ways of thinking, acting, and doing that promote health, responsibility, and change.

Part 1: A Variety of Forms of Meditation

Chapter 1: Understanding Meditation
Chapter 2: Phases of Meditation Practice and Transcendence
Chapter 3: Research-Studied Benefits and Side Effects of Meditation
Chapter 4: Faith-Based and Secular Meditation
Chapter 5: The Path of Concentrative Meditation: Transcendental Meditation and Other Mantra-Based Forms
Chapter 6: Concentrative Forms of Breath-Based Meditation
Chapter 7: The Path of Insight Meditation: Mindfulness

Part 2: A Clinical Approach to Using Meditation with Clients and Patients

Chapter 8: How I Introduce Clients to Meditation
Chapter 9: Helpful Strategies and Techniques: Before, During, and After Meditation
Chapter 10: Breathing Properly to Promote Optimal Emotional and Behavioral Responses
Chapter 11: Using Affirmations during Meditation: In Sports, Peacetime, and War
Chapter 12: Meditation Strategies to Enhance Sleeping
Chapter 13: Integrating Meditation with Key Elements of Humanistic and Gestalt Therapies
Chapter 14: Integration of Meditation with Trauma-Focused Treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, and Systematic Desensitization

Part 3: Case Studies: Creative Applications of Meditation Strategies

Chapter 15: Buddhist Gathas and Tactical Meditation to Address Life’s Challenges: Six Case Studies
Chapter 16: Chronic PTSD Following an Automobile Accident: The Faith Factor
Chapter 17: Acute PTSD Related to Arrest, Police Interrogation, and Prolonged Legal Proceedings: Severe Avoidance and Anxiety
Chapter 18: Chronic PTSD and Severe Phobia Related to Military Service in

Part 4: Continuing the Journey

Chapter 19: Meditation and Prayer: A Complementary Relationship
Chapter 20: Enhancing Meditation: Benefits, Challenges, and Signposts
Chapter 21: Meditation Is the Medication

Appendix: How I Introduced Michelle to Four Forms of Meditation (Case Study)
About the Author
Ray Monsour Scurfield, DSW, LCSW, ACSW, is professor emeritus of social work, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg. Scurfield is a nationally recognized posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) expert. He was in direct clinical practice at Rivers Psychotherapy Services, Gulfport, Mississippi, and was the clinical consultant to the Biloxi U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Center from 2011 to 2023.

Scurfield was an army social work officer (1967), and he served on one of the Army’s two psychiatric teams for one year (1968-1969) in Vietnam. He had a distinguished 25-year career with the VA, as the first national director of counseling for the VA Vet Center Program (Washington, D.C., 1982); founding director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Treatment Program (PTSTP), American Lake VA Medical Center, Tacoma, WA (1985) – the PTSTP was internationally acclaimed and pioneered cohort admissions and innovative experiential treatment strategies for PTSD (that is, helicopter ride therapy, adventure-based Outward Bound and low and high ropes courses, integrating American Indian healing and warrior-recognition ceremonies, joint therapeutic activities with Soviet veterans of Afghanistan); and founding director, VA National Center for PTSD, Honolulu (1992), establishing treatment centers on Oahu, on the Big Island, and in American Samoa. In the remarks accompanying Scurfield’s 1988 prestigious VA Olin E. Teague award, President Ronald Reagan wrote, "Your achievements in the study and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder have become landmarks in psychiatry."

Scurfield was social work faculty, University of Southern Mississippi (1998), and received some 15 awards. He received the 2006 MS Social Worker of the Year award for post-Katrina trauma counseling with students, faculty, and staff; organizational, publication, and education achievements on and off campus; and the 2012 National NASW Lifetime Achievement Award.

Scurfield has written or coedited seven books. The most recent include War Trauma: Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam to Iraq (2006); War Trauma and Its Wake: Expanding the Circle of Healing (2012); and Healing War Trauma: A Handbook of Creative Approaches (2013). His work includes 70+ total publications and 400+ appearances nationwide, including on 60 Minutes, Nightline, NPR, and the PBS documentary Two Decades and a Wake-Up, about co-leading the first therapy group of Vietnam veterans back to Vietnam in 1989. Scurfield also was co-faculty for the first integrated history and mental health university-based study abroad course to Vietnam (2000) that included Vietnam veterans and history students in a collaborative endeavor of social work and history departments.

Scurfield has been meditating since his initiation into basic Transcendental Meditation in 1977 and subsequent advanced Siddhi residential training. His practice is grounded in gestalt, existential, humanistic, cognitive behavioral, and experiential therapies.
As an experienced practicing psychotherapist, daily meditator, and retired executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter, I highly recommend Dr. Scurfield’s book. Scurfield is an excellent writer and provides easy-to-read and clear instructions for the practice of meditation based on his own extensive meditation practice and the provision of meditation training to his students and clients. This book provides detailed and easy-to-apply instruction for meditation, a truly beneficial practice for anyone experiencing stress or difficulty with daily functioning and/or desiring to deepen their spiritual practice. The explanations of meditation forms (mantra, breath count, mindfulness, and hybrid mantra/breath awareness) and methods (scheduled and as needed) are easy to understand and apply to practice. The discussions of faith-based and secular meditation provide much needed clarity to an often confusing, and sometimes controversial, area of meditation practice. The application to mental health disorders, especially anxiety and PTSD, is clear and easy to understand for both lay persons and professionals. There are case studies to provide clear examples of the methods and process of meditation, also illustrated by quotes from the historical masters of the practice. Overall, this is an excellent book for introduction to the practice as well as for seasoned practitioners, and I highly recommend it. I will use if often in my practice with clients and in presentations.

Janice Sandefur, LCSW, ACSW
Heart Space Counseling & Consulting, LLC
Ocala, Florida


Faith-Based and Secular Mediation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications is a must-read, masterful book that focuses on comparative meditation and on secular and faith-based meditation. The book is thoroughly researched with information about both the positive benefits and side effects of meditation. Case studies, notes, meaningful quotes, and parables provide additional support about the beneficial impact of meditation, supporting healing and analysis of ultimate enforcement, and a review of mantras and breath, which help to relieve suffering. Scurfield shares with us his experiences as a clinician, Vietnam war veteran, professor, and researcher, and considers himself a constant student seeking knowledge. He guides us through different forms of meditation, research studies on meditation, and a range of mental health symptoms, including his unique integration of meditation with cognitive–behavioral therapy as a treatment for PTSD. Although I refer clients to meditation, I now realize the importance of spending time in sessions to explore the purpose of meditation and help the client identify their mantra and discover the breath that fits their needs. For meditation teachers, breath workers, and others, this clinical handbook is a gift to support healing the self.

Sherrill Valdes, LCSW, BCD


Dr. Scurfield has an astounding amount of clinical experience working with severely traumatized veterans and civilians, including a year on a psychiatric team in Vietnam during what was arguably the worst of times (1968–1969). This book impresses me in so many ways, and high on the list is how touched I am as a psychotherapist for 40+ years by the earnestness with which this man seeks to teach us all, no matter our degree of distress. Reading this book had an interesting side effect: I felt a deep-seated sense of hope and optimism for those of us in the healing arts, grown weary at times, and disenchanted by the proliferation of so-called self-help books. This author comes across as a healer with a desire and willingness to share a lifetime of study and experience in the alleviation of human suffering that manifests through fear, anxiety, and apprehension. The book begins with a thorough and even-handed literature review worthy of a doctoral dissertation. He goes on to describe clinical application of his methods in such detail that even a layperson unfamiliar with meditation can immediately enjoy success in calming the troubled mind. Peppered throughout are positive affirmations, ancient and contemporary. Scurfield’s descriptions of treatment possibilities (mantra, breath related, scripture based) are so vivid that one can imagine oneself right in the room with him, something I hope to do one day myself. This guy is the real deal.

Wendy Saxon, PhD
Licensed Psychotherapist (Ret.)
Forty Fort, Pennsylvania


Dr. Raymond Scurfield’s magnificent book, Faith-Based and Secular Meditation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications (2019), is a must have on the shelf of anyone who meditates, teaches meditation, or is considering learning how to meditate. It is an extraordinary comparative professional and personal critical analysis and ultimate endorsement of meditation, a clinical handbook, and a personal reflection on the benefits of meditation in many of its forms across time, cultures, and secular/spiritual believers. There is no other publication available that addresses the depth and breadth of meditation in such a variety of practices and applications.

Dr. Scurfield’s professional mental health experiences, to include as a Vietnam veteran and as a civilian, (described at the end of this review), coupled with his remarkable clinical experiences in teaching meditation in its different forms to adult clients, and his willingness to share his own professional and personal journey in meditation, plunges the reader into a very personal, remarkable, persuasive and helpful guide to meditation.

The structure and personal perspective of Faith-Based and Secular Meditation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications make it very easy to read for beginners or advanced students of meditation. Part One introduces the benefits and potential side effects of meditation, its various forms (including breath-based, mantra, affirmations, and mindfulness) with descriptions, supporting research, and critiques, and discussion of the need for both faith-based and secular meditations to suit individual needs and beliefs. In the latter, he describes the important place that meditation holds in virtually every major faith in the world.

Part Two moves seamlessly into specific meditation strategies and, for clinician readers, how to integrate meditation into humanistic and Gestalt approaches and within trauma-focused treatments (including cognitive behavioral and systematic desensitization interventions). While this section describes specific instructions for therapists to use with clients, this reviewer sees this section as beneficial to non-therapist readers interested in applying these strategies on their own. In short, Dr. Scurfield provides the reader with instructions to practice strategies as one reads, and subsequently after reading. In fact, the reviewer recommends that the book be read in this way: savoring each one of the meditation strategies as it is introduced, taking time to rehearse the strategy and consider how effective it is, and applying preferred strategies. In addition, moving beyond traditional meditation, Dr. Scurfield introduces and recommends the practice of "spot meditation": short meditations to use in any circumstance, at the onset of anxiety or worry, alone or in the presence of others, to bring calm and return our focus always back to our individual experience of consciousness and to our universal interconnectedness.

Part Three reviews several case studies, weaving various meditations into the treatment plan of several clients with histories of traumatic events and subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, avoidance, and phobia (e.g., motor vehicle accident, legal system entanglement, and military service-related combat). Selective faith-based meditations or secular based meditations illustrate the choices and adjustments in meditation interventions to best fit the client. The beauty of these case studies lies in the integration of meditation into cognitive behavioral and gestalt-based treatment interventions, demonstrating that meditation is a universal intervention that can be woven into virtually any treatment plan.

Finally, Part Four moves into a reflection on the relationship between meditation and prayer, and the benefits and challenges of practicing meditation on a regular basis. The latter echoes the primary theme reinforced throughout the book: Optimally, meditation should be practiced on a regular basis in its traditional form (alone, approximately the same time and same length of time daily) in order to achieve oneness with the universe, awareness (in its many forms), gratitude, generosity, perspective, and a state of calm.

In addition to the comparative benefits and practical applications of meditation in Faith-Based and Secular Meditation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications, two additional elements push this book into outstanding integrative writing. The first is Dr. Scurfield’s inclusion and critical review of an extraordinary number of research articles on all variations of meditation. In this regard, it stands in a class if its own. Second, Dr. Scurfield has assembled many wise Eastern, African, Native Hawaiian, and Western proverbs and metaphors from across the centuries, ranging from The Buddha to the Dalai Lama, Pukui, Fritz Perls, and Yogi Berra, among others. These are interspersed to fit the text and, remarkably, are quoted from their original sources. The inclusion of these powerful original words invites the reader to reflect on each one in a contemplative fashion; to skip over any one is an error of omission. Individually and as a whole, these quotations add rich depth and breadth to the history and practice of meditation across cultures and centuries, and to the reader’s appreciation of the power of contemplative meditation.

Faith-Based and Secular Meditation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications strikes me as the culmination of Dr. Scurfield’s lifelong journey which is thriving in part through the practice and teaching of meditation. He has given each reader a bounty of gifts in this book: answering why meditate, how/when/where to meditate, and how meditation shapes and informs his own story. As a reviewer, I find it a masterpiece in writing. As a reader, I found myself engaged (and continuing to engage) in practicing meditation options with which I had not been familiar. As a clinician, I find myself practicing more than one meditation (including spot meditations, a variation new to the reviewer and for which I am very grateful) since finishing the book. And I find myself continuing to recommend, and recommend, and recommend, this book to colleagues, friends, clinicians, and to those reading this review.

To appreciate the perspective on the content, process, and style of this book, the reader would benefit from an introduction to its author. Dr. Ray Scurfield, DSW, LCSW, ACSW, has spent his adult lifetime meditating, and teaching meditation to his clients in his clinical practice. His experience has equipped him not only with academic experience but the value of meditation for civilians experiencing catastrophic and life-changing traumatic events. His authoring/co-editing of seven books on war trauma and 70+ publications have honed his skill sets in writing, integration of materials across a wide range of sources, and capacity to differentiate "quality" research from questionable research findings. This background, coupled with Dr. Scurfield’s remarkable clinical experience in teaching meditation in its different forms to adult clients, and his willingness to share his own professional and personal journey in meditation, plunges the reader into a very personal, remarkable, persuasive, and helpful guide to meditation.

Christiane O’Hara, PhD, FAIS
Psychologist, Atlanta, GA
Advisor, Women Veteran Social Justice Network, Inc.
Fellow, American Institute of Stress
Faith-Based and Secular Meditation was reviewed by Michelle Jones for the journal Health & Social Work.

Meditation is increasingly being used as a treatment intervention in the field of mental health. Faith-Based and Secular Meditation: Everyday and Posttraumatic Applications by Raymond Monsour Scurfield contributes to the literature, specifically about how meditation can complement faith-based and non-faith-based clients’ belief systems. This book provides an overview of meditation from the author’s personal experience as a meditator and practitioner, with supporting evidence from research and experts in the field. The author provides guidance for practitioners who are using meditation as treatment by reviewing four common types of meditations and demonstrating how these meditations can effectively treat posttraumatic and everyday stress.

The book is divided into four sections with subsections to inform the reader of each topic area. This strategy is useful, as some readers may want to focus on specific chapters of the book. The author provides the history and rationale for using meditation as an intervention in therapy, guides the practitioner to adjust meditations for faith-based and secular clients, explains how to apply meditations through a trauma-informed lens, and uses case examples to demonstrate his therapeutic approaches. The author begins the book by imparting enough knowledge of meditation to begin a daily practice, followed by strategies for integrating clients’ faith-based and secular beliefs into their assigned meditations. The book then proceeds to cover information on Gestalt therapy, cognitive–behavioral therapy, and systematic desensitization which leads into the author’s technique for integrating meditation into these models for treatment of posttraumatic stress and anxiety.

Read the full review. Available to subscribers of Health & Social Work.

Click here to hear an interview with the book’s author, Ray Monsour Scurfield, on the NASW Social Work Talks podcast!
Earn 7.0 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.