What Is Transpersonal Psychology

What Is Transpersonal Psychology

Transpersonal psychology is​ an​ integration of​ psychology and spirituality. it​ includes all realms of​ being human, including realms that go beyond words and perceptions. it​ includes the awareness that we are spiritual beings living in​ physical bodies. When salt and water are mixed the salt is​ not observable and no longer takes up space but can be tasted as​ part of​ the water. Such is​ the transpersonal experience, which expands beyond the boundaries and limitations of​ time and space. Transpersonal psychology recognizes the importance of​ our individual personalities, but it​ also includes mystical realms of​ experience which extend outside the limitations of​ intellectual understanding and material existence. Transpersonal psychology does not oppose or​ contradict other models of​ psychology. The transpersonal orientation is​ inclusive. it​ builds and expands upon traditional models for a​ more holistic realization of​ the human condition.

Transpersonal psychology is​ not about religion. Religion involves a​ belief system within an​ institutionalized structure, whereas spirituality simply involves experiential awareness of​ our more than physical existence. According to​ Teasdale (2018), “The term spirituality refers to​ an​ individual’s solitary search for and discovery of​ the absolute or​ the divine” (p. 10). it​ is​ my belief that many of​ the challenges that our society faces, both globally and as​ individuals, are the result of​ feeling separated from the true self, or​ the Divine. Looking at​ the interface between psychotherapy and spirit may help to​ integrate what I believe is​ true and important in​ the healing of​ humans and the evolution towards conscious compassionate living.

When I look at​ people in​ our culture I am struck by what appears to​ be deep discontent and lack of​ peacefulness. There is​ an​ experience of​ suffering that goes with not living authentically in​ one’s truth. I believe the constant searching to​ meet needs that never seem to​ be satisfied has been displaced onto money, social status, and material gains. Viewing psychotherapy from a​ spiritual perspective may facilitate the fulfillment of​ inner needs, which have been invalidated in​ our culture. According to​ the Gospel of​ St Thomas, Jesus said, The Kingdom of​ God is​ inside you, and it​ is​ outside of​ you. When you come to​ know yourselves, then you become known, and you will realise that it​ is​ you who are the children of​ the living Father. But if​ you will not know yourselves, then you will dwell in​ poverty, and it​ is​ you who are that poverty. (in Hanh, 1995, p. xxiii)
I believe that inquiry into our inner world is​ crucial in​ order to​ meet the deep longing we have as​ humans to​ be united with the divine, as​ well as​ to​ live fully as​ humans. When we look inward in​ transpersonal psychotherapy we are accessing the true self. Traditional Western psychology, informed by psychoanalytic and behavioral approaches, is​ oriented towards what is​ perceived to​ be “wrong” with the client so interventions can be determined and implemented. The transpersonal approach recognizes the value of​ categorizing and understanding psychological symptoms, however it​ regards presenting issues as​ part of​ a​ much larger whole. Frances Vaughan (1993) states, “A transpersonal orientation does not invalidate other approaches, any of​ which may be relevant to​ different people at​ different times. it​ does, however, call for a​ more expanded context than is​ usually constructed by conventional approaches” (in Walsh and Vaughan, p. 161). This more inclusive vision emphasizes the growth process. Transpersonal psychology cultivates awareness of​ inherent wisdom and goodness in​ humans, which may be unacknowledged or​ blocked by learned behavioral patterns. Transpersonal therapies help facilitate natural movement towards healing and growth by helping to​ uncover and remove these blocks.

Many people deemed successful by the standards of​ Western culture find themselves deeply dissatisfied and unhappy despite material and social success. Our society reacts negatively to​ the slightest sign of​ “unhappiness” or​ depression, labeling it​ as​ something “wrong”. This cultural bias invalidates the spiritual seeking that often underlies these symptoms. From the transpersonal perspective, questioning and reflecting on unhappiness and depression may be the beginnings of​ a​ more expanded and holistic existence. The search for meaning beyond the material world opens the possibility to​ live in​ a​ new and more deeply satisfying way.

Transpersonal counselling focuses on present moment awareness and how experience is​ organized with less emphasis on intellectual discussion. There is​ a​ difference between directly experiencing something and intellectualizing about it. The transpersonal therapist may incorporate techniques such as​ journal writing and expressive arts, as​ well as​ cognitive behavioral techniques such as​ guided imagery and relaxation to​ access deeper meanings and an​ experiential rather than verbal understanding of​ the self. Transpersonal counselling focuses on inner development and relationship rather than emphasizing external activities and material concerns.

The transpersonal approach includes all aspects of​ being human and sees mind, body, and spirit as​ parts of​ an​ integrated whole. Rather than focusing on reducing symptoms, the goal of​ transpersonal therapy is​ to​ detach from identification with roles and behaviors and realize one’s true identity. There is​ less focus on problem solving and more on developing and opening inner resources and the experience of​ a​ unique authentic beingness.

[A transpersonal approach] allows a​ more inclusive vision of​ possibility in​ which a​ person can let go of​ the past and live more fully in​ the present. in​ light of​ perennial wisdom of​ spiritual teachings, it​ affirms the possibility of​ living in​ harmony with others and the environment, less driven by fear and greed, and motivated by compassion and a​ sense of​ purpose. (Vaughan, 1993, p. 161)

The transpersonal vision recognizes that letting go of​ the past allows us to​ live more fully in​ the present and ultimately facilitates access to​ deeper levels of​ wisdom, creativity, and potentiality.

Today like every other day
We wake up empty and scared.
Don’t open the door of​ your study
And begin reading.
Take down a​ musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of​ ways to​ kneel
And kiss the earth.


Hanh, T. N. (1995). Living Buddha, living Christ. New York: Riverhead Books.

Teasdale, W. (2018). The mystic heart: Discovering a​ universal spirituality in​ the world’s
religions. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Vaughan, F. (1993). Healing and wholeness: Transpersonal psychotherapy. in​ R. Walsh
& F. Vaughan, (Eds.) Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision (pp. 160-165).
New York: Tarcher/Putnam.

Walsh, R., & Vaughan, F. (Eds.). (1993). Paths beyond ego: The transpersonal vision.
New York: Tarcher/Putnam.

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