Unlike most forms of psychotherapy that concentrate on improving mental health alone, transpersonal therapy addresses mental, physical, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual needs, with an emphasis on the role of a healthy spirit in healing.
Transpersonal therapy integrates spiritual traditions and rituals into modern psychology. It emphasizes positive influences and role models rather than concentrating on negative experiences. The holistic treatment is based on the idea that humans are more than just their mind and body, but are also composed of intangible, or transcendent, factors that make up the whole person.
The treatment method evolved from the humanistic work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and was formalized by American psychologist Abraham Maslow and associates in the 1960s. It has continued to be developed by Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, among others.
Maslow and his colleagues called it “transpersonal therapy” because of its focus on a broader conception of how a person achieves meaning, purpose, and happiness, describing transpersonal therapy as “reaching beyond humanistic concerns.”
The therapy originally included a greater focus on altered states of consciousness, from which a patient can see themselves and their lives from a different perspective. These states were achieved, in part, through the use of psychedelics. Since psychedelics became controlled substances in the 1970s, practitioners have moved on to other means of achieving mental transcendence, such as meditation and holotropic breathwork.
With the resurgence of interest and trials of psychedelic compounds today, some versions of transpersonal therapy may return to psychedelic-assisted therapy methods.
When It’s Used
Those who are open to exploring their spiritual side, becoming more spiritually aware, or who are having trouble finding meaning in their life, may benefit from transpersonal therapy. One of the goals of the treatment is to increase a patient’s sense of empowerment.
Transpersonal therapy is primarily used to treat:
As well as other mood and behavioral problems.
What to Expect
Transpersonal therapists aim to aid patients in transcending their current view of themselves and to open their minds to new ways of approaching the challenges in their lives. Practitioners use a variety of approaches, some taken from Eastern traditions and others from Western psychology, to help you explore your spiritual self and create meaning in your life. These include:
- Guided visualization
- Dream work
- Music therapy
- Holotropic breathwork
With the therapist’s guidance, you will find, build, and expand on your inner strengths and resources to create a more balanced life and a healthier state of mind.
How It Works
To facilitate healing and growth, transpersonal therapy places great emphasis on honesty, open-mindedness, and self-awareness on the part of the therapist as well as the client. A transpersonal therapist may draw from a variety of different religions and spiritual practices for tools and methods that can help you explore areas of your consciousness not typically accessed and use your spirituality to guide you through troubled times.
Transpersonal therapy has drawn criticism for being outside the mainstream of psychology although this is changing, as Eastern traditions, such as meditation and mindfulness, have become integrated into the field, along with the resurgence of interest in the therapeutic use of psychedelics. Transpersonal therapy is not a parapsychology.
What to Look for in a Transpersonal Therapist
It’s important to look for someone with experience in the practice and someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal and spiritual matters. There is no official accreditation required to practice transpersonal therapy, although there is an institution, Sofia University (formerly known as the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology), that formally trains students in the technique.