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What is Spiritual Psychology?

Learn about the field of spiritual psychology

spiritual psychology

Spirituality and religious practices are integral parts of most cultures, an inextricable part of childhood as they form the family's value structure, and color the lens through which people see themselves – even if they are no longer participating in the family, the culture, or the religion.

Divorcing these experiences from the therapeutic process or discounting them as irrational does a great disservice to patients who are struggling with major life issues, issues that are central to one’s identity and purpose.

Spiritual psychology is a 21st century approach to living - a blending of science and spirituality. It's a holistic approach that integrates both traditional and transpersonal psychology with any - and all - spiritual practices, and it's particularly focused on spiritual growth.

Inherent in the approach of spiritual psychology is the understanding that the patient is a spiritual being who is traveling his or her own particular path. The therapy supports the patients' abilities to explore and strengthen spirituality in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Patients are also guided in identifying their own best qualities on their journey toward realizing their own potential.

Pastoral Counseling

The path of evolving consciousness

Human spirituality is as diverse as humanity itself. Yet, despite the many variables, the structure of spiritual psychology provides a process and structure that enables patients to cogently consider their many – often conflicting - thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes this happens within the patient's own religious tradition, but often it leads to entirely new paths.

Spiritual psychology often proposes alternative spiritual perspectives as a way of delving deeper and getting to the source of troubling issues. These alternative perspectives include a wide number of spiritual concepts and experiences that take us out of our normal way of perceiving.

These experiences might involve non-ordinary states of consciousness during which patients might have “ah-ha” moments, engage in conversations with their higher selves – an aspect of their souls – or have other transcendent experiences that change their understanding in a profound way. Transcendent experiences put us on the path to self-realization as we become more aware of the non-physical aspect of “self.” (see Transpersonal Psychology.)

Spiritual psychologists believe that as individuals evolve and increasingly identify with their souls, they begin to realize that uniting with the soul is the purpose of their journey. They start to understand “non-duality” - the end of feeling separate and alone – and the beginning of feeling one with God, the Creator, or the Universe.

Healing therapy

A spiritual crisis shakes the foundations of a patient's life, requiring psychological as well as spiritual help. He or she might be suffering from floating anxiety (see Anxiety), depression, anger, or fear – a feeling of being stuck and unable to see a promising future. These are all psychological concerns that often result from a belief structure that the patient has outgrown.

Rejection of one's childhood religion can result in an increasing sense of disconnection or abandonment as one grows older. Spiritual psychologists view this as an emotional hunger – a lack of spiritual nourishment – because they believe that patients haven't found a good way of engaging their spirits. An exploration of those early experiences in combination with more recent beliefs will bring reconciliation, setting the stage for a more satisfying attitude toward life.

For many people spirituality is more than just the backdrop of their lives – it's a frantic search for God and that ecstatic connection. Guilt, self-recrimination, and self-judgment often block that access and are resolved through a therapeutic intervention emphasizing self-forgiveness, compassionate understanding, and unconditional self-love. As these approaches support the patient's self-worth, the patient evolves from a needy child to a serious spiritual student.

Because of the influence of Eastern religions, meditation continues to be one of the most widely used therapeutic activities. Both Tibetan and Zen Buddhism have long traditions in the integration of spirit and mind, and have many time-tested meditations that help center out-of-balance spiritual seekers. Therapists are often trained in different meditative styles and coach patients in a practice of “going within” that opens up new levels of awareness.

Meditation quiets the mind and brings patients a greater sense of self-realization - the realization that they are not just the face they see in the mirror – they are something far greater. Spiritual psychology recognizes that this “ah-ha” moment helps patients understand how their constraining beliefs have kept them from realizing their own potential.

Another effective therapy is guided visualization. In these relaxing sessions the therapist guides patients into a mildly altered state of consciousness where they can explore their subconscious. (See “Changing your brain...”) Awareness exercises of this nature often result in emotional releases of long-buried sorrows. Acknowledging and releasing old burdens and stresses is relieving and strengthening to both mental and physical health.

Spiritual psychology engages all aspects of human experience. The goal of holistic balance in the body, mind, and soul of patients gives them a brighter outlook on life and a calmer, more peaceful inner life.

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 spiritual psychology.

Spiritual psychologists must have a PhD in most states to practice, and certain licensing requirements might also apply. Contact schools for more information on psychology degree programs and entering the field of Spiritual Psychology.

Spiritual Psychology Schools & Colleges
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5 Program(s) Found
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
  • Partnerships with thousands of companies
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
  • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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Argosy University , Online (campus option available)
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
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Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose. Our 20,000 alumni, from more than 110 countries, are changing the world as accomplished professionals. Named a top-15 school nationally for online bachelor's programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2015), Regent is among the most affordable undergraduate Christian colleges (CCCU 2015). Fully accredited, challenging programs are available online and on campus. New classes begin every eight weeks.

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  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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  • Several institutional scholarship opportunities are available to students who qualify.
  • Features several learning model options, including online, residency, and hybrid options.
  • Offers graduate degree programs in organizational leadership, mind-body medicine, psychology and human science.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Three teaching locations in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas, with the university headquarters located in San Francisco, California.
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  • Online school designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Commited more than $60 million in tuition savings in 2015 through scholarships.
  • Active-duty military, veterans, and Veteran’s Administration employees can save 15% on tuition.
  • Offers 24/7 student services, including financial aid help, course registration, and career counseling.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
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Brenau University , Gainesville

• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

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