Transpersonal psychology is a sub-field or “school” of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. It is also possible to define it as a “spiritual psychology”. Trans translates to “beyond”, and personal refers to personality. Therefore, transpersonal psychology is a field of psychology is the study of the human aspect that goes beyond the realm in which the so-called normal personality operates.
Among the thinkers who are held to have set the stage for transpersonal studies are William James, Carl Jung, and Abraham Maslow. Maslow is credited for having presented the outline of a fourth-force psychology, named transhumanistic psychology, in a lecture entitled “The Farther Reaches of Human Nature” in 1967. In 1968 Maslow was among the people who announced Transpersonal Psychology as a “fourth force” in psychology, in order to distinguish it from the three other forces of psychology: psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology.
This branch of psychology evolved from the 1960’s fueled by two Harvard psychologists, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary, who began experimenting with psychedelic drugs. Their altered states of consciousness and pursuit of the transpersonal aspects of the human psyche ultimately cost these two unorthodox psychologists their jobs.
The first step will be to earn either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Science (B.S.) in psychology. The differences between a B.A. and B.S. will vary per college/university, however, generally the former is a liberal arts major that provides broad exposure to history, theories, research methods and practical applications of contemporary psychology. The B.S. is more specialized in mental health or developmental psychology, such as courses in psychotherapy, adolescent psychology and infant development. We suggest you carefully review the proposed curriculum for your intended college of choice.
In order to fulfill your career path in transpersonal psychology, you’ll need to also earn a Master’s degree. Saybrook University in Oakland, California, offers a graduate degree in Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology (EHTP). This interdisciplinary Specialization is rooted in a holistic conception of what it means to be a person within the frameworks of humanistic psychology, existential psychology, transpersonal psychology, phenomenological psychology, and gestalt psychology. According to the Saybrook website, their applications of the EHTP approach apply to healthy people engaged in a lifelong journey toward self-knowledge as well as to individuals in psychosocial or spiritual distress.
Another example is Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado that offers a graduate degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. This program offers rigorous and personally transformative programs that cultivate learning through focused self-exploration, contemplative practice, individual support, small class size, and experiential activities. This three-year full-time program is composed of four key elements: transpersonal and contemplative orientation; theoretical, experiential, and clinical training courses; the counseling experiential; and the internship.
For those with the ambition to advance the potential career opportunities in this field, you may consider a doctorate degree. Sofia University in Palo Alto, California offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Transpersonal Psychology. Coursework includes intensive inquiry in transpersonal philosophy, theory and research; a research methods sequence that prepares students for dissertation work on a chosen topic; and integrative and transformational educational experiences of community-building and applied learning through retreats and a community praxis (practicing ideas) sequence.
Transpersonal psychologists often spend time in research facilities studying the effect of spirituality and holistic living on the overall health of individuals, in educational settings, and in corporate settings as well. Just a few of the positions often held by these professionals include:
- Teaching Positions
- Corporate Consulting
- Research Positions
- Life Coaching
- Art Therapy
Obtaining higher education will also open doors for the transpersonal psychologist to receive a higher salary. Since most employers base salary on experience and education, those with a Doctorate degree can expect to make significantly more money than those who have only obtained a Master’s degree. Another great way to increase value in the eyes of an employer is to obtain specialized education depending upon the type of setting a professional wants to work in. As far as salary is concerned, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that the median salary for the occupation of psychologist was $69,280 or $33.31/hour. Job growth is expected to be 12% or 18,700 job changes through 2022. However, those in private practice may garner $100/hour and more.