What is a Transpersonal Therapist?
Explore careers in transpersonal therapy
Awakening to see oneself as a divine work-in-progress, rather than an organism-in-decay, is the basis of self-love and appreciation – and the cornerstone of happiness – according to one group of therapists who specialize in transpersonal thought and practice.
Transpersonal therapists are trained in both traditional psychological thought and the newer, transpersonal therapeutic approach that includes the human spiritual component. Their goal is to help patients explore both their spiritual and temporal lives, and integrate both aspects into a more complete “self.”
Personal growth and happiness are primary drives for humans. The search for self and for the purpose of one's life are found in every culture, and transpersonal therapists believe that these drives are at the core of many psychological problems. These therapists feel that inner work on these two issues will not only resolve old problems, but also reveal new, life-changing information.
The transpersonal realm - a source of healing
For transpersonal therapists, the transpersonal self is very real and accessible. It is sometimes called the higher self or the soul. The methodical exploration of the transpersonal self results in the expansion of personal consciousness – an increased self-realization that therapists believe holds the key to greater self-understanding and self-appreciation.
Under the guidance of a therapist using talk therapy, patients sometimes discover reasons for, or clues about, life‘s problems. Therapists direct patients in learning to be aware of their inner wisdom, helping them gain new perspectives on health, compassionate social interaction, and love.
For many, these inner journeys are profound, inspiring creativity and awakening potential. Therapists watch for signs that patients are finding new energy in their transpersonal realms. They want to help patients get in touch with passions that bring long-forgotten dreams and goals back into focus. Through this process, therapists help patients self-realize, becoming happier, self-fulfilled individuals.
Tools of the transpersonal therapist
One of therapist’s most important techniques is the ability to induce transpersonal experiences in patients. Individuals commonly encounter this transpersonal aspect of themselves when they have experiences that stretch their normal sense of reality. These experiences are spontaneous and spiritual in nature resulting from a religious ritual or belief, or they are simply inspired by the sound of a rippling stream.
When induced by a therapist, a transpersonal experience occurs in a more controlled manner. Therapists must be experienced in recognizing patients' states of consciousness. They must also be adept at using talk therapy to guide patients through the process of accessing these different states. Even while entranced, patients are still aware and coherent – able to make observations and draw conclusions as they explore.
Many of the therapist's tools come from other spiritual cultures. For instance, the Eastern practice of meditation is often a primary methodology used by therapists to help patients calm their minds. Many transpersonal therapists are advanced meditators themselves, and patients who are also advanced meditators benefit from focused practice as well as the opportunity to discuss their meditative experiences.
Learning to interact with the transpersonal self through meditation is a lifelong commitment to spiritual growth. Patience, living life in the present moment, and the ability to disconnect from stimuli not only bring peace of mind, but lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and induce a host of other physiological benefits.
Therapists also often prescribe yoga and martial art forms for patients who regularly enjoy a strong exercise regimen. Tai Chi and Akeido, for example, also induce transpersonal states of consciousness but also include a physical component.
As the body moves, and the mind visualizes energy moving through the limbs, a state of calmness comes over the individual, bringing greater perception, quicker reflexes, greater insight, and a sense of harmony. Therapists discuss these experiences with patients, making suggestions and helping patients analyze their body-mind-spirit experiences.
Chanting, drumming and other shamanistic rituals are time-tested methods for changing states of consciousness, having been used for thousands of years by indigenous people in every corner of the world. Although many transpersonal therapists have shamanistic skills, these therapies typically take place in a group context, such as a seminar or a retreat, and are facilitated by specialized therapists.
Hypnosis, Holotropic breath work, and other methods of inducing more powerful transpersonal experiences often require that therapists have special training and possibly certification. This is because these modalities induce trance states directed by therapists. These trance states help patients go deep, enabling inner work that bypasses conscious minds The therapists are responsible for choosing the most appropriate method, and for assessing the nature, value, and safety of patient's transpersonal experiences. (See Integrative medicine's diverse palette of therapies).
Beyond culture and religions
Transpersonal therapists are not spiritual advocates for any specific tradition but must be knowledgeable in many different spiritual paths. In all therapeutic sessions, the patient sets the spiritual or religious tone, and the therapist shapes the dialog, suggesting therapeutic practices that are appropriate to patients' beliefs.
Because transpersonal work is directed at the level of the self (higher self or the soul), patients begin to learn who they truly are and to understand the purposes of their lives – often outside of religious or cultural contexts. This process of self-realization clarifies values and priorities at the soul level, rippling through attitudes and perspectives that redefine patients' lives, sometimes initiating big external changes, sometimes quiet, internal ones.
Giving patients the tools and the understanding they need to manage their growth is the job of the transpersonal therapist. Transpersonal work won't stop life's difficulties because difficulties stimulate growth, but transpersonal knowledge makes growing an adventure.
If you desire to help individuals with many of life’s challenges, and appreciate a spiritual focus in the resolution of workplace stressors, family life, career decisions, relationship issues, and personal growth concerns, consider a career as a transformational therapist.
Transformational therapists must have a PhD in a psychology related field to practice in most states. Contact schools for more information on becoming transformational therapist.