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.

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 Programs in
Online
  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
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  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
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  • Formed in 2001, it has 28 locations across the United States.
  • Offers customized blend format of online and campus classes.
  • Extensive activity in the local campus communities.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • 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.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • 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.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
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  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Main campus located in Chicago, Illinois with additional campuses in Southern California, Washington D.C., and online.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
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  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Online
  • Online MBA program ranked 6th in the USA by CEO magazine. 
  • In a university-sponsored survey, 4 out of 5 alumni reported being satisfied with their experience.
  • #1 Online School for military veterans according to Military Times.
  • 75,000+ graduates across all industries offer extensive networking opportunities. 
  • My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.) lets students watch, view, read, or hear content. 
  • Smartphone app available for on-the-go learning. 
Show more [+]
  • Online MBA program ranked 6th in the USA by CEO magazine. 
  • In a university-sponsored survey, 4 out of 5 alumni reported being satisfied with their experience.
  • #1 Online School for military veterans according to Military Times.
  • 75,000+ graduates across all industries offer extensive networking opportunities. 
  • My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.) lets students watch, view, read, or hear content. 
  • Smartphone app available for on-the-go learning. 
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
3 Programs in
Online
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
Show more [+]
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
2 Programs in
Online
  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
Show more [+]
  • Students can enroll at any time and begin studies in the fall, spring, or summer.
  • 9 out of 10 Florida Tech Students who apply, qualify for some type of aid, based on a Fall 2012 internal survey.
  • The average freshman retention rate is 77.3 percent.
  • Ranked #39 in Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Reports
  • Among the more than 50,000 alumni include several astronauts, CEOs, and 32 generals.
  • Special tuition rate available for active duty, selected reserves, National Guard service members and their spouses.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
2 Programs in
Online
  • A member of The Russell Group of 24 UK research-led universities.
  • Ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.
  • Teaches students are from over 160 countries worldwide.
  • Holds full accreditation with degrees widely recognized internationally.
  • Degrees pursued online will look the same as degrees pursued on campus.
  • Its Royal Charter has allowed it to independently award bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees since 1903.
  • Over 6,000 international students on campus.
Show more [+]
  • A member of The Russell Group of 24 UK research-led universities.
  • Ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.
  • Teaches students are from over 160 countries worldwide.
  • Holds full accreditation with degrees widely recognized internationally.
  • Degrees pursued online will look the same as degrees pursued on campus.
  • Its Royal Charter has allowed it to independently award bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees since 1903.
  • Over 6,000 international students on campus.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
2 Programs in
Online
  • A private, Christian, liberal arts university open to students of any faith.
  • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
  • Average class size is 20 students.
  • 97% of students receive financial aid, with the average freshman receiving $10,000.
  • Has been educating students since 1905.
  • Offers over 25 undergraduate degree programs. 
Show more [+]
  • A private, Christian, liberal arts university open to students of any faith.
  • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
  • Average class size is 20 students.
  • 97% of students receive financial aid, with the average freshman receiving $10,000.
  • Has been educating students since 1905.
  • Offers over 25 undergraduate degree programs. 
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs