Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spiritual Psychology

In yet another attempt to try to think about what Paul and I actually do with people I wondered if the term "Spiritual Psychology" would define it well. One clinical psychotherapist who uses the term on the web to define her practice says that what she actually does is "transformational work for the healing of soul and spirit" and that her mission is to inspire, illumine, nurture, and empower her clients. That pretty much sums up what we do.

But while I like this as a starting place I realize that this particular person leaves out the word "body." Psychotherapists aren't generally trained to think of the person as a unit -- body, mind and spirit acting in concert when in a state of health, developing blocks and dysfunction when out of sync with itself and the rest of the known universe. Further, some people purposely exclude bodily functions in the context of spirituality. But if we're spiritual beings in physical form how could it not be all one piece?

I got a Masters Degree in Transpersonal Psychology, a spiritual psychology that uses a fancy word "transpersonal" to say that the focus goes beyond a person's experience of themselves as simply flesh and bones, memories and emotional baggage. It goes beyond a person's belief about themselves as a person (if you grew up in this society) to include spiritual awakenings and related phenomena.

For instance, a Kundalini awakening like Paul had would be considered an appropriate topic for a session with a Transpersonally-trained psychologist whereas any other psychologist might be concerned this was a "manic episode," be worried if it happened again and again, or dismiss it out of hand.

A Transpersonal or Spiritual Counselor would also find it appropriate to talk about a person's childhood experiences around spiritual phenomena, their religious upbringing, positive or negative belief systems installed by that conditioning, and how a person chooses to integrate spirituality into their life and world view right now. A classically-trained psychotherapist gets taught nothing about these topics and, if they're part of some schools of thought, might even dismiss all spiritual focus as a sign of infantile regression or delusion.

I have a degree in Transpersonal Psychology. Paul has degrees in Religious Studies and Behavioral Science. We both studied a wide variety of both psychological and spiritual experience and know better than to impose a single religious perspective on the clients we meet. We don't have licenses in "clinical psychology" but does a person actually need a clinician to work with the deepest issues of their heart in a spiritual frame?

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