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Transpersonal Therapy

What is the purpose of transpersonal therapy?

Transpersonal Therapy seeks to help those on a spiritual path by providing experiences of transcendence and supporting the new awareness that develops. Clients may experience a sense of awe and wonder as they become aware of ‘a sense of eternity, of something limitless, unbounded…oceanic,’ a feeling of our deep connection to the universe and of our existence of ourselves as existing beyond this body and this time.

What does ‘transpersonal’ mean?

Transpersonal means beyond the personal, or transcendence of attachment to the ego. Buddhism as well as other spiritual paths speak of oneness, of a need to lose our attachment to our ego and to material things in order to grow spiritually. Transpersonal experiences can ‘encompass mystical ineffable experiences which lead to an improved level of functioning in the person experiencing them.’ Transpersonal therapy often integrates existential, humanistic and Jungian approaches.

How will transpersonal therapy help me?

Outcomes of transcendent experiences provided by transpersonal therapy include ‘increases in spirituality, concern for others, appreciation of life, and decreases in fear of death, materialism and competitiveness.’

Where does this fit in with traditional therapy methods?

Transpersonal therapy is done within the context and knowledge of traditional therapy methods of counseling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. It adds other techniques as well such as guided visualization, inner child healing, soul retrieval, dream awareness, breathwork, and meditation.

Example of a spontaneous transcendent experience

Near Death Experiences are an example of a spontaneous transpersonal experience. They have been found at times ‘to permanently and dramatically change the experiencer’s attitudes, beliefs and values, and may lead to a profound spiritual growth.’ Many cultures induce transcendent experiences through vision quests, sweat lodges, fasts and rhythmic music, because they recognize the positive maturing effect of the experiences.

How are transcendent experiences reached in transpersonal therapy?

We do not need to go to the lengths of a vision quest or a fast to connect with this inner wisdom. Transcendant experiences can be experienced through the processes of hypnotherapy or breathwork as well as meditation. Clients frequently report feeling a sense of oneness with something greater and a capacity to connect with energies and sensations beyond themselves. After the sessions, they report a greater sense of empowerment, meaning and connectedness in their lives.

What are the kinds of problems that transpersonal therapy addresses? 

The symptoms many of us face such as anxiety, depression, panic, phobias, relationship problems, addictions, weight management could all be seen to have a spiritual component which needs to be understood and addressed.

Is this a religious approach?

Transpersonal therapy does not espouse a particular religious or spiritual view. Rather it acknowledges the importance of a spiritual path. It offers approaches from various paths including Buddhism, Native American Spirituality and Shamanism. It honors Carl Jung’s belief that healing and growth occur through experiences of mystical and transcendent consciousness.

Are these approaches different from those used in traditional psychology?

The approaches used could also be translated into modern psychological views and techniques of healing. For instance: the techniques of Soul Retrieval and Bringing the Shadow to Light could be compared to a psychological technique of integrating unconscious or disavowed parts of the self.

Types of transpersonal therapy methods include:

  • Meditation and Awareness Practices
  • Guided Visualization
  • Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy
  • Breathwork
  • Bringing the Shadow to Light
  • Soul Retrieval
  • Inner Child Healing

What are Meditation and Awareness Practices?

Meditation and awareness practices are used to develop a greater awareness of the present moment and to help develop greater control of thoughts, feelings and reactions. One can learn to still the mind through sitting or walking meditation. Embodied meditative practices such as tai chi, Qi gong, and martial arts, and process painting are also used for this purpose.

What is Guided Visualization? 

In guided visualization, the client listens to the therapist’s voice describing positive scenes and providing affirmations in the session or on a recording in order to assist the client in developing a stronger connection to the inner world and inner visioning process

What is Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy? 

Heart Centered Hypnotherapy is a form of regression hypnosis which allows one to go to the source of a problem or symptom and resolve it. It integrates the processes of ego-strengthening, an affect bridge and inner child healing to allow for the awareness of a present feeling state to allow for the healing of a past unresolved situation or trauma. Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy was developed by Diane Zimberoff and David Hartmann.

What is Breathwork? 

Breathwork is meant to help release blocked energy from the body and the energy field. Energy can become trapped during times of trauma, and conscious connected breathing allows the energy to be released from the chakras and other areas so that the trauma can be processed and so that energy can flow freely. Breathwork is particularly helpful for blocks in creative energy. I was trained in holotropic breathwork as developed by Stan Grof, as well as in breathwork which combines Reichian and bioenergetic principles as developed by Carole Lampmann. People often have spiritual experiences during breathwork, as the blocks to higher consciousness are released.

What is "Bringing the Shadow to Light”?

In this work we help the client to become aware of his or her shadow side, the disavowed or disowned part of the self, which is often projected onto others. The idea of the shadow comes from Jungian theory. Generally we are not aware of our shadow side. The shadow side is often illuminated by looking at those in our lives whom we dislike. They represent the sides of ourselves which we avoid and which believe we do not have in us.

What is a Soul Retrieval? 

In this work we help the client to ‘retrieve’ lost aspects of the self, as well as lost qualities and skills. Parts of the self can be ‘lost’ or hidden during times of trauma, betrayal or when going against one’s conscience. This activity of losing part of the self is done as a survival mechanism. However, as the person matures, the loss of these parts hampers the person’s full ability to connect with people and to achieve his or her full emotional and spiritual potential.

What is Inner Child Healing? 

In this work, we help the client to reconnect with the part of the self which felt emotionally wounded, hurt, abandoned, or betrayed as a child. Despite physical maturity, people frequently remain emotionally stuck at these early ages. Regression therapy can help to reconnect with and heal this part of the self, This work also helps the client to become stronger and to re-parent this part. This allows for healthy nurturance and bonding with partners, family and friends.

Quotes above are taken from:

  • Freud, S. “Civilization and Its Discontents” SE Vol 21, p 64
  • Greyson, Bruce, Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, Ch 29
  • Scotten, Bruce, Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, Ch 1