The CIIS doctoral degree in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology (ITP) is one of the few programs in the world that offers an online PhD in whole-person approaches to psychology and that is a research-oriented program dedicated to systematic knowledge-building and the advancement of these fields.
Whole-person psychologies expand the horizons of conventional Western psychology to include mystical and spiritual experiences that transform and expand human consciousness, and by engaging in a comprehensive framework that includes the living systems of body, community, society, and the world as interconnected processes of evolution in a living, breathing cosmos. From this perspective, scientific work can be pursued with equal rigor as standard approaches, but it becomes possible to ask new and compelling research questions that lie close to the heart of what it is to be human.
This course of study will focus on experiential depth in the education process, integrative learning contexts, excellence in scholarship, and contributions to scholarly literature and scientific research. The ITP degree will offer focus areas in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, in Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience, and in Somatic Studies.
Focus Areas of the ITP Degree
Integral and Transpersonal Psychology
A transpersonal approach appreciates all that a conventional psychology brings, but also gives weight to lived experience, intuition, and exceptional human experiences such as those associated with mysticism and spirituality. It is a transformative psychology of the whole person, not just as an individual, but as part of a diverse, interconnected, and evolving cosmos. Integral psychology is a related approach that sees the typical human personality as fragmented and understands both healing and personal evolution as linked to the integration of these aspects into a more whole being. The integral tradition has roots in Indian spirituality through the writings of the Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo.
Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience
The study of consciousness brings a new dimension to both philosophy and psychology, so that the process of knowledge is turned back onto itself and consideration is given to the remarkable fact of awareness, of knowing, that makes knowledge possible. What contemplative neuroscience adds to this is a careful consideration of those states of consciousness, such as meditation, that involve the cultivation of consciousness. If these states can be understood, both from within experience and with the tools of neuroscience, this may advance understandings of the human mind, of experiences associated with mysticism and spirituality, and of consciousness itself.
Somatics and somatic psychology consider the intimate lived experience of embodiment—of understanding what it is to be human from the inside, and how these experiences illuminate culture, consciousness, and healing. This focus area is designed to support students with experience in transformative body practice such as a martial art, bodywork, dance or movement practice, advanced sport practice, gyrotonics, pilates, or similar traditions, in enhancing their capacities for teaching their practice, advancing their understanding of its relevance to challenges in the contemporary world, and supporting their ability to publish scholarly work related to their area of expertise.
About the Department
The Integral and Transpersonal Psychology PhD is situated within the East-West Psychology (EWP) department. Founded in 1975, EWP is a multidisciplinary department concerned with the meeting of Eastern, Western, and indigenous psychological and spiritual traditions. Through its unique combination of cognitive and experiential offerings, the department seeks to ground academic excellence and the acquisition of professional skills in both the personal transformation of students and the cultivation of a spiritually informed scholarship.
As an academic field, EWP constitutes a larger context for many disciplines that explore the interface of psychology and spirituality, including integral and transpersonal and integral psychology, Asian psychologies, modern consciousness studies, participatory spirituality, depth psychology (Jungian, archetypal, and psychoanalytic), contemplative psychology, religious comparative studies, shamanic and indigenous studies, and ecopsychology. Approaching the encounter among Eastern, Western, and indigenous worldviews in the spirit of dialogue, mutual transformation, and open inquiry, participants in this department actively explore the practical implications and professional applications of this convergence for a diverse and multicultural world. This commitment also entails bridging psychospiritual growth with social, cultural, and ecological transformation.
The EWP department is guided by and dedicated to the following educational ideals:
- To create a learning community focused on the exploration of Western, Eastern, and indigenous psychologies and spiritualities in the spirit of integral inquiry and open-ended dialogue
- To offer an integral education that honors not only intellectual excellence, but also the voice and wisdom of the somatic, vital, emotional, imaginal, and spiritual dimensions of the person
- To bring spirituality into academia and explore the transformative elements of inquiry, learning, and writing
- To foster the psychospiritual development of students, as well as their unique individual gifts and potentials
In addition, the ITP degree is a research-oriented course of study focused on systematic, scientific knowledge building from the transformative and whole-person stances of integral and transpersonal psychology.
Integral Transformative Education
The EWP department offers an integral transformative education that encourages students to engage in the twin tasks of the integration of knowledge and the integration of multiple ways of knowing.The integration of knowledge concerns itself with building bridges between different fields of knowledge (for example, psychoanalysis and Buddhism). Additionally, at the doctoral level, it encourages the integration of various research methodologies (e.g., theoretical, phenomenological, narrative, and heuristic), standpoints (e.g., first-, second-, and third-person approaches to knowledge), and epistemologies (e.g., Eastern contemplative and Western scientific).
With the integration of multiple ways of knowing, students develop inquiry skills that engage a wide range of human faculties and experiences (e.g., somatic, emotional, vital, imaginal, intellectual, intuitive, spiritual). The acquisition of these skills is not only a catalyst for meaningful personal transformation, but also the foundation for both the elaboration of more holistic knowledge and the design of integral transformative approaches relevant to the needs of individuals and collectives in the contemporary world.
Collaborative learning is central to the pedagogical experience in all the EWP programs. Depending on particular course objectives, this includes the appropriate use of dialogical inquiry, class presentations and small-group discussions, Web-based learning and networking tools, group assignments and cooperative inquiry, as well as group work in daylong retreats. Collaborative learning trains students in the shared construction of human knowledge, fosters emotional and interpersonal competence, and teaches how to enter into fruitful exchange with people holding different views. These skills translate into multiple professional settings.
As an extension of the EWP vision, the ITP degree brings an additional focus on research and on systematic, scientific knowledge building. A transpersonal science applies the methods of science to the study of the whole person, fully embodied, embedded in community, and engaged with the world, but it also represents a re-visioning of the scientific process. Transpersonal science is more than studying transpersonal topics in a scientific way, it is also about doing science in a way that is transpersonal, integral, and holistic. Such an approach includes everything from innovative ways to research the richness of lived experience to measuring neural responses with EEG.
There are three main groups of students for whom this degree is well suited. One such group is those with an existing profession who wish to advance their education and contribute to the development of better research and scholarship in their professional areas of work, such as psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, counselors, consultants, activists, organizers, leaders, teachers, researchers, nurses, physicians, lawyers, or others in fields related to personal development, social change, or environmental protection. Another group consists of individuals who are entrepreneurially oriented, and who may wish to use their degree as the basis for consulting or writing and teaching in the public arena about their area of expertise. In addition, some students wish to pursue a PhD as a means to more fully developing their personal gifts and potentials.