As one of the lesser-known branches in the dynamic and diverse field of psychology, transpersonal psychology is not often explored within conventional undergraduate and graduate psychology degree programs due to its nontraditional approach to studying the mind and behavior. However, there is currently an increasing interest in the transpersonal psychology perspective among individuals who strive to discover a deeper and richer understanding of the human spirit to achieve their fullest potential. Since the theories and ideas from this branch can be applied to many different sub-fields of psychology to make a well-rounded practitioner, the following is a comprehensive overview of transpersonal psychology.
Defining Transpersonal Psychology
Founded in the early works of Carl Jung, William James, and Abraham Maslow, with the goal of enhancing the study of mind-body relations, consciousness, and spirituality, transpersonal psychology is the study of human growth and development from a perspective that delves deeper into the inner soul. According to the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, the mission of the field is “to promote eco-spiritual human transformation through transpersonal inquiry and action.” Since the field is focused on spirituality to get acquainted with deeper levels of consciousness and life beyond the physical plane, there is often a religious aspect to transpersonal psychology to help individuals realize that they are ultimately spiritual beings in physical bodies. Unlike religion though, transpersonal psychology attempts to integrate Western psychology to translate spiritual principles into empirical-based scientific language.
Transpersonal Psychology vs. Parapsychology
Although transpersonal psychology is often confused with the related field of parapsychology, it is important to understand that there are some significant differences between the two perspectives. While both of the branches study human experience beyond the physical world to the spiritual, parapsychology is based solely on the scholarly study of unusual psychic phenomena, including ESP, psychokinesis, reincarnation, and apparitions. On the other hand, transpersonal psychology is simply focused on the spiritual side of human nature for reaching self-actualization and self-fulfillment in life. Therefore, transpersonal psychology often involves the use of meditation, dream work, vision questions, hypnosis, and other altered states of consciousness to achieve a heightened sense of reality.
Career Opportunities in Transpersonal Psychology
Since transpersonal psychology is still one of the more unusual psychology fields, it may be somewhat challenging for individuals to find employment in the field. However, many transpersonal psychologists find work at spas, spiritual retreats, and mental health clinics or will start their own private practices to see patients at their convenience. When providing direct services to clients, transpersonal psychologists will develop treatment plans to change negative behaviors by exploring the spiritual sides of those that may be “lost” spiritually through traditional therapy focused on spirituality. For transpersonal psychologists with an advanced degree, there are also academic and research positions available at universities to conduct studies on music therapy, guided imagery, peak experiences, near death situations, meditation, and other areas of spirituality.
Overall, if you are interested in studying spirituality and the parts of the ego that are often unexplored in the practice of a clinical psychologist, transpersonal psychology may be the ideal perspective for you. In order to have the best chance at gaining employment within this steadily growing field, it is essential that you receive a graduate degree in transpersonal psychology or counseling psychology with a strong spiritual background. With the theoretical foundations and spiritual frameworks gained from this education, you will be on the right track to a fascinating career in transpersonal psychology, helping individuals reach their fullest spiritual potential for a happier life.