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How to become a Transpersonal Psychologist

transpersonal psychologist comforts her patient

What is Transpersonal Psychology?

Transpersonal psychology goes beyond the traditional “mental health” focus that general psychology utilizes and instead embraces a holistic “wellbeing” approach to healing.

It combines the mental, physical, social, emotional, creative and intellectual needs of the patient and supports the idea of a healthy spirit to promote healing and happiness. In short, transpersonal psychology believes that your spiritual beliefs, interests and core values play key roles in your mental and physical well-being.

In This Article

What are its origins?

The treatment method evolved from the humanistic work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and was formalized by American psychologist Abraham Maslow and his associates in the 1960s.

Maslow and his colleagues renamed it “transpersonal therapy” because of its focus on a broader concept of how a person achieves meaning and purpose, describing it as “reaching beyond [Jung’s] humanistic concerns.” It has continued to be advanced by a Czech psychiatrist named Stanislav Grof, among others.

Transpersonal therapy originally included a focus on altered states of consciousness, where patients may see themselves and their lives outside of the self, from a different perspective. These states were partially achieved using psychedelics, such as LSD, but since psychedelics became controlled substances in the 1970s, practitioners have moved to other means of achieving elevated states, such as using meditation or breathing exercises instead.

However with the resurgent popularity of psychedelics, which is due to some promising research results and some states relaxing regulations, psychedelic legalization is going into partial effect in Oregon and Colorado, all while approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in progress (potentially).

How does transpersonal psychology work?

Honesty and self-awareness

To facilitate healing and growth, transpersonal therapy places emphasis on honesty and self-awareness in the relationship between the patient and the psychologist. A transpersonal psychologist may draw from a variety of spiritual and creative exercises, philosophies and tools that may help the patient explore areas of his or her consciousness and invoke spiritual methods to guide them through anxious or troubled times.

Identifying behavioral patterns

Transpersonal psychologists primarily work with people who feel spiritually bereft or are dealing with common modern ailments such as anxiety and depression, or just are looking for help to find themselves in order to lead a happier life. These psychologists strive to help patients change negative behaviors such as substance abuse addiction, improve their social lives and relationships, or even just discover their spiritual center.

Transpersonal therapy

Therapy in transpersonal psychology could involve traditional talk therapy but add such other methods as meditation, dream work and vision quests, which originated with indigenous peoples and contain elements of solitude and seeking understanding or purpose through connection with both the visible and invisible worlds. These therapies can help patients see themselves as connected to the larger scheme of things or as part of nature, and less on their own immediate material being.

Who can benefit from transpersonal therapy?

According to Psychology Today, transpersonal psychology may help with negative behaviors or attitudes by substituting more constructive behaviors and focusing more on spiritual meaning and inner life, and can be of benefit to patients who suffer from conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse and other addictions
  • Phobias

Transpersonal therapy techniques

Besides traditional talk therapy and psychology techniques and practices, transpersonal therapists use other methods and tools to help clients find meaning in their lives. Some of these may include:

  • Art projects
  • Listening to or composing music
  • Journal writing
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Creative visualization
  • Dream interpretation and exploration
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Psychedelics

Steps to become a transpersonal psychologist

Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

female psychology student with glasses smiling

While a bachelor’s in psychology is the most obvious choice, if you have an interest in a related area, such as sociology, political science or neuroscience, these majors will also help you pave the way to enter the field.

Earn your master’s degree.

psychology students studying together at a park

A psychology master’s is the equivalent of a transpersonal psychology degree and the minimum level you must hold in order to practice as a therapist, and you’ll want to hone your studies on holistic psychology such as existential psychology, life coaching, meditation or spiritual psychology. Since few mainstream colleges and universities offer degree programs in transpersonal psychology you may need to gain experience or enter a program at a less traditional college after earning your master’s degree in psychology.

Earn a doctorate.

doctor of psychology sits across from her patient smiling

Do you want to do research or have a client-facing practice? You can earn a PhD in psychology, and work in research and academia or a PsyD, and become a practicing psychotherapist. Either way, you should plan for an additional four to six years of school in your doctorate program.

Complete an internship and residency.

group of transpersonal psychology students in residency

You’ll be required to complete both an internship where you observe practicing professionals and a residency, where you participate in patient and client-facing interactions under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The length of residency is determined by the state in which you live and the particular transpersonal psychology program you choose.

Get licensed to practice in your state.

right hand filling out a state application for licensure

Every state requires psychologists and therapists to be licensed, but the criteria may be different depending upon the state in which you intend to practice. Make sure to check your state’s licensing board to find out your exact requirements. Generally, requirements include the successful completion of supervised practice programs and the passing of national and state examinations, both written and oral.

What will my classes be like?

Once you have your bachelor’s in psychology or a related field, which should lay the groundwork in traditional psychology, your master’s program may delve more into the tenets and core practices of transpersonal psychology theory.

Here is an example of some of the coursework in the master’s program from Sofia University, which was formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology:

  • Foundations in Transpersonal Studies
  • Theories of Personality
  • Spiritual Development Across the Lifespan
  • Transpersonal Approaches to Dreams and Dreaming
  • Complete a required professional practicum

These master’s programs are designed to ready students for a career in life coaching, social work, art therapy and health and wellness among others. If you’re committed to pursuing a career as a practicing transpersonal psychologist, you will likely need to finish your education with a doctorate. 

Salary and job growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t specifically cite salaries for transpersonal psychologists, but they do document salaries for psychologists, counselors and therapists. Compare median national salaries for these three careers:

Career Median Annual Salary
Clinical and Counseling Psychologists $90,130
Counselors, All Other $43,390

Here are the median annual psychologist salaries by state:

Psychologists, All Other

National data

Median Salary: $106,420

Projected job growth: 5.1%

10th Percentile: $40,000

25th Percentile: $68,410

75th Percentile: $124,020

90th Percentile: $138,860

Projected job growth: 5.1%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $110,090 $27,480 $127,150
Arizona $111,220 $47,990 $127,570
Arkansas $99,900 $26,290 $122,680
California $122,970 $52,890 $173,850
Colorado $107,490 $61,200 $130,650
Connecticut $116,310 $37,710 $143,370
District of Columbia $106,810 $52,120 $138,860
Florida $105,760 $49,250 $126,900
Georgia $99,590 $46,320 $125,630
Hawaii $120,600 $51,080 $149,950
Idaho $97,510 $46,320 $116,380
Illinois $106,420 $51,380 $136,390
Indiana $103,790 $49,600 $123,800
Iowa $106,950 $42,200 $123,010
Kansas $103,790 $30,400 $133,830
Kentucky $110,090 $75,030 $122,680
Louisiana $39,310 $36,770 $122,680
Maine $80,010 $52,430 $135,110
Maryland $106,810 $35,360 $159,330
Massachusetts $116,210 $51,480 $137,340
Michigan $66,210 $36,850 $122,680
Minnesota $80,870 $40,730 $129,080
Mississippi $66,650 $26,290 $119,520
Missouri $106,950 $41,600 $124,950
Montana $79,350 $26,290 $122,680
Nebraska $104,690 $26,290 $122,680
Nevada $124,840 $47,430 $150,970
New Hampshire $123,260 $46,140 $142,770
New Jersey $120,640 $39,090 $135,260
New Mexico $106,430 $46,610 $135,610
New York $106,020 $39,260 $142,580
North Carolina $103,790 $45,380 $124,900
Ohio $111,070 $48,280 $140,110
Oklahoma $106,390 $26,290 $128,710
Oregon $112,440 $60,200 $160,920
Pennsylvania $97,930 $50,360 $130,580
Rhode Island $104,000 $30,410 $139,980
South Carolina $114,730 $46,320 $140,630
South Dakota $103,790 $26,730 $142,520
Texas $112,280 $48,820 $141,420
Utah $106,950 $47,650 $130,560
Vermont $83,690 $54,860 $120,990
Virginia $109,640 $78,680 $138,530
Washington $111,110 $53,500 $135,430
West Virginia $39,670 $26,400 $117,500
Wisconsin $106,500 $45,660 $142,620
Wyoming $104,730 $26,290 $167,380

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The BLS says that job growth for psychologists, in general, will be right around average through 2032, with a increase in jobs. The national average for all careers rests at 3% for the same timeframe. Clinical and counseling psychologists will grow the fastest, says the BLS, with a higher job growth rate of 11.4% through 2032.

FAQs About Transpersonal Psychology

Who are some notable figures in the field of transpersonal psychology?

The most notable is arguably Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who was a student of Sigmund Freud. Freud divided the human personality into the id, ego and superego, while Jung proposed the human psyche was composed of the id, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.

The two men split over Jung’s belief that Freud was too limited in his thinking and that the unconscious was more than repressed thought and motivations and could be a prolific source of creativity. The 1960s became a primary time of growth for transpersonal therapy as Abraham Maslov announced transpersonal therapy as the “fourth force in psychology” and strived to separate it from the humanistic school of psychology. The use of the term “transpersonal” has been credited to early notable figures Stanislov Groth and Anthony Sutich, who were associates of Maslov.

The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology was opened in 1975 by Robert Frager and James Fadiman and was in response to the hostility transpersonal psychology received from the established scientific and academic environment. The Institute is now Sofia University, and offers coursework in the field, specifically at the master’s-level.

What are some common criticisms of transpersonal psychology?

Transpersonal psychology programs have drawn criticism for being outside the boundaries of mainstream psychology constructs although this is changing as Eastern therapies, philosophies and exercises, including meditation, natural health, yoga and mindfulness, become more accepted and integrated into western medicine and healthcare fields.

There are also other detractors who believe transpersonal studies lack the scientific and documented rigor that traditional psychology practice has.

What are some common applications of transpersonal psychology in education and learning?

Because transpersonal therapy utilizes the creative nature of people, those who deal with learning disabilities, have trouble expressing themselves verbally, have trauma or PTSD or need special education can benefit from the art and writing therapies used in transpersonal psychology.

ECEs, elementary school teachers, art therapists and movement therapists can all apply aspects of transpersonal psychology to their curriculum and practice so that these unique individuals have a way of expressing themselves, their anxieties, fears and phobias. Those suffering from addictions may find a way to replace the time negatively spent using with a more spiritually profound and positive outlet.

Written and reported by:

All Psychology Schools Staff

Published: March 14, 2023