The MA in East-West Psychology is a two-year program requiring 36 units of study. The program is designed to provide flexibility that allows students to focus on specific areas of study and to explore a variety of western, eastern, and indigenous approaches to psychology and spirituality. With the guidance of academic advisors, students design their own individualized curriculum, possible area of specialization, and psycho-spiritual approach.

If you are interested in our MA, but still have to finish your BA, please read more about our BA to MA accelerated track.

Course of Study

All students are required to take four core courses:

  • Introduction to East-West Psychology 
  • Conscious Diversity: Inner and Outer—A Diversity Process Class 
  • Community Retreat
  • Knowledge, Work, and the Academy
  • MA Integrative Seminar

Students also choose among three courses that follow East-West and other psychological approaches:

  • Depth Psychology
  • Integral and Transpersonal Psychology
  • East-West Spiritual Counseling
  • Eco-Psychology
  • Culture and Psychology

All students choose two of three courses in foundational spiritual traditions, with the option to take another course in another program.

  • Eastern Theories of Self, Mind, and Nature
  • Western Mystical Traditions
  • Indigenous and Shamanic Traditions

Students have required coursework in psycho-spiritual practice, including eastern, western, indigenous, contemporary participatory spirituality, and socially engaged practices and service learning.

Students may optionally use elective units to gain either depth through an area of specialization or breadth in different areas of interest.

Accelerated MA to PhD

Completing an MA then a PhD in our program would require 72 units of coursework plus a dissertation. However, we offer the option of a 60-unit MA/PhD to students deemed capable of advanced and accelerated academic work. The 24 units of pre-dissertation coursework required for this option focus primarily on research courses, allowing fewer electives than the usual 36-unit program.

Students who wish to apply for the accelerated MA/PhD track must first apply for and be accepted into the MA program. After the first full-time year of coursework, students interested in the accelerated track should contact their advisor. The advisor must provide a recommendation to the core faculty, and writing and/or research samples will be required as part of this program review. Applicants must have demonstrated the consistent capacity for PhD-level writing and research skills, superior self-direction, sufficient psychological maturity for PhD work, and outstanding grades and evaluations from their professors. They must have a focused dissertation topic, a workable plan for the research, and academically sound, well-defined goals for the practical application of the EWP doctoral degree to their future scholarly and professional work in the world.

Teaching/Research Assistantships

Our program offers limited number of paid teaching and research assistantships each semester. Possible responsibilities for teaching assistants includes facilitation of experiential learning, teaching portions of the class, working with students outside the classroom on projects, miscellaneous administrative and logistic tasks, providing feedback to the faculty member on student learning and perceptions, and reading student papers and giving feedback (but not as the only reader). Research assistants assist faculty in specific research areas in tasks such as annotated bibliographies, scholarly networking, and maintaining scholarly databases.

Internships

Internships allow students to integrate career-related experience into an academic education and to gain practical experience in their chosen field in a supervised professional work environment. Our program provides a list of associated organizations in which internships are available. Internships can be carried out as fieldwork up to a maximum of 6 units.

Course Descriptions

The following is a selection of courses that may be offered.

Community Retreat (1 unit)
This off-campus retreat is required for all new MA and PhD students. Emphasis is placed on community building, storytelling, interactive exercises, and interpersonal communication skills.

Introduction to East-West Psychology (2 units)
This course provides new students with an introduction to the field of East-West psychology, and to the pedagogical approaches and departmental standards of scholarship for both the MA and PhD. Students also become familiar with historical foundations and selected issues of the East-West-North-South encounter in psychology and spirituality.

Non-Dual Perspectives in Spiritual Counseling (3 units)
In this course, students undergo traditional methods for the direct apprehension of non-duality; explore the effects of such understanding on their own psychology; and then translate such understanding into therapeutic schools and methods.

Integrative Seminar (1 unit)
Taken during the last semester of coursework, this seminar provides the opportunity for MA students to reflect on their learning experience in the program, to create a portfolio of their most important work, and to prepare future professional goals.

Introduction to Yoga Psychology (3 units)
Yoga is a term with both a broad and general meaning, and a narrower and specialized meaning in the country of its origin. The west has its history of reception of the term, which has colored its meanings. In this course, we will look at the broader understanding of yoga as a pervasive Indic cosmo-psychology and an occult anatomy with its archive of practices, cultural expressions, and goals related to life choices. Taking a historical approach, we will explore the roots of yoga practice in the Indus Valley; the cosmological and psychological maps of the Vedas and Upanishads; the occult world of deities and supernaturals; the psychology of ritual, soul, and reincarnation; the constitution of human nature; the psychology of knowledge, moksha, and samadhi; the Gita's synthesis; the will and its uses; bhakti or devotion; the Tantric system of kundalini and the chakras; siddhis or paranormal powers; and cultural expressions influenced by these understandings. Finally, we will consider attempts at integrating these structures and processes and the utilities of yoga psychology to (post-) human potential.

Jung, Nonduality, and Eco-Psychology (3 units)
What is the nature of self and its relationship to all beings, the earth, and the cosmos? This course offers students an opportunity to deeply engage in an exploration of Jung's many insights into eco-psychology from a non-dual perspective. As part of this interdisciplinary exploration, depth/transpersonal dimensions of eco-psychology and the implications of applying non-dual understandings through different meditative practices and active imaginations will be explored. There will be a strong self-reflection and experiential component to the course.

Eastern Theories of Self, Mind, and Nature (3 units)
This course discusses the spiritual tenets common to religious traditions and disciplines originating in India, such as Advaita Vedanta, Samkhya Yoga, and Buddhism. It offers the foundation necessary to understand Eastern approaches to psychology and spirituality. The course includes experiential components centering on meditation and spiritual practice.

Western Mystical Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam (3 units)
This course explores mystical traditions and contemplative practices in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although these traditions were born in the "Middle East," they are often referred to as "Western" because of the profound influence they have had in the West. The course includes guest lecturers from each of the traditions and a Contemplative Practice Lab, where contemplative practices from each of these traditions are taught.

Wilderness Rites of Passage (3 units)
Ancient cultures performed rites and ceremonies as a way of renewing their connection with the Earth and with their communities. This course introduces ancient rites of passage and gives students the opportunity to experience themselves the initiatory threshold in a safe yet challenging way with a solo vision quest in the wilderness. The ceremony follows the traditional stages of a rite of passage: severance (leaving behind what is familiar), threshold (the actual solitude and fasting), and reincorporation (return to the community with gifts and insights).

Eco-Spirituality and Creative Expression: Touching the Sacred Within and Without (1 unit)
Enlivening and embodying our deepest spiritual apprehensions of the cosmos and our place in it might be our most urgent task indeed. This experiential course explores human intimate relationship with the fabric of the living earth, in which spirit and matter take form in the unfathomable dance of being.

Animal Dreams—Visitations from the Wild Psyche (1 unit)
This course suggests a shift from an anthropocentric to an eco-centric sensibility using the dreaming psyche as a doorway towards genuine care for the earth. When at night in our dreams we are visited by other-than-human inhabitants of our planet, the earth's psyche discloses itself to our own primal soul, our earth-soul. Animal dreams help us to reflect on what the living earth is asking of us today. Throughout our sessions, creative practices will deepen our attunement to the animals and life forms who visit in our dreams.

Leadership, Evolution, and Transformative Change (3 units)
This course is an experiential exploration of leadership action that arises from deep spiritual wisdom and that fosters personal, professional, and planetary transformation. Students will study the following topics and apply them to a specific idea or project of their choice: (a) East-West psychology, evolutionary wisdom, and the "Bodhisattva Vow" as a foundation for leadership that empowers self and others toward greater service, alleviation of suffering, and a more profound expression of self in one's workplace, community and the world. (b) Leadership competency that is sourced from compassion, integrity, and clarity of purpose, and that solves problems and shifts systems, and can design projects for personal, professional, and social well-being. (c) Tools for envisioning the future, and for creating new patterns, stories, and paradigms for the present, and for manifesting desired results. (d) Leadership practices for enhancing courage, empowering and motivating others, creating conversations that generate possibility, transform breakdowns into breakthroughs, walk the talk, and embody the highest ideals in practical ways with visible results in the world.

Integral Approaches to Dreams (3 units)
This course provides a foundation for an integral approach to dreams and dream work, in both theory and practice. It will explore traditional and contemporary approaches to dreams as well as investigate models that attempt to integrate both. Expanding on Wilber's integral model to inquire about dreams, the course's experiential component will address body, mind, and spirit in an integral perspective.

Archetypal Psychology (3 units)
James Hillman, founder of Archetypal Psychology, bases his explorations on a complex metaphorical strand derived primarily from many of C. G. Jung's ideas, methods, and deeper attitudes. However, Jung often focuses his psychology on more structural and conceptual methods and assumptions, whereas Hillman speaks of his grounding as "soul-making" based upon imagination or a "poetic basis of mind." In dream explorations, as well as in other interpretative work, one finds Archetypal Psychology to be polytheistic and radically multiplistic, yet exact. "Stick to the image," insisted Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, an early co-founder. "Save the phenomena!" cried Hillman in those earliest rollicking gatherings. These two mottos define and insist on a specific discipline of imaginal work. This course will focus on working with dreams using this archetypal approach. Assumptions, methodology, and further implications will be thoroughly explored using dream material brought to class by the participants.

The Psychology of Death and Dying (3 units)
This course allows students to develop a deeper understanding of death and dying and, through that exploration, a more mindful experience of living. Emphasis on the study of East-West theories of death and dying, the spiritual potential of life-threatening illness, and psycho-spiritual counseling for the dying and their caregivers.

Indigenous and Shamanic Traditions (3 units)
This course explores indigenous knowledge and traditions from the perspective of ancient and current life practices and beliefs of indigenous peoples from all over the planet. Shamanic techniques that arose from indigenous worldviews are studied along with modern day neo-shamanic practices. The animistic belief systems shared by most earth-based peoples is explored as a way to understand not only indigenous spiritual traditions but also ourselves.

Conscious Diversity: Inner and Outer—A Diversity Process Class (2 units)
We live in a diverse world and need to be able to respond appropriately, not just from the heart, not just from the mind, but from skillful means, in ways that enhance cross-cultural relationships, value differences, and deepen one's ability to act responsibly, think critically, and negotiate borders that might otherwise divide. This course will draw upon the inspiration and work of Arnold Mindell and his application of Process Work (Process Oriented Psychotherapy), World Work and Deep Democracy, in order to gain skills that will cultivate awareness, cultural sensitivity, and inclusivity. Students will acquire tools and concepts designed to resolve tensions, utilize strengths, support collaboration, and create welcoming environments. Students will begin to learn how to become skillful practitioners, facilitators, and changemakers, modeling the world they want by the way they work with themselves. It is up to each of us to contribute to a new tomorrow, a diverse rich world, where everyone feels at home!

Entheogenic Shamanism (3 units)
This course explores the fundamentals of shamanic traditions whose practices are based on sacred visionary plants, with a deeper focus on Amazonian ayahuasca shamanism. Cultural, philosophical, and psychological questions are addressed, concerning, for example, the "dark side" of entheogenic shamanic practices, the ontological status of visionary experiences, the spread of entheogenic shamanic practices into the West, and the issue of integration.

Wisdom Texts, East and West (3 units)
This course includes the most profound and influential wisdom texts of the West, of India, and of China. Robert McDermott will teach four classes on Western texts: Psalms and the Book of Wisdom; the middle chapters of Plato's Republic; three chapters of Aristotle's Ethics; and the Gospel of John and First Letter to the Corinthians. Debashish Banerji will teach Hindu and Buddhist texts: Selections from the Upanishads; the Bhagavad Gita; and selected Buddhist sutras from the Pali and Mahayana canons. Jun Wang will teach Laozi's Dao De Jing, Yellow Emperor's Inner Cannon (Chapter 8 of the Lingshu, "Rooted in Spirit" ), Confucian's The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong), and the Chan (Zen) Buddhism's Platform Sutra.

Transpersonal Psychology (3 units)
This course discusses the historical origins and theoretical foundations of transpersonal psychology, drawing from the main representative authors and models: Jung, Assagioli, Maslow, Grof, Wilber, Washburn, Almaas, and others. Students learn the nature and significance of transpersonal phenomena and work with experiential exercises to integrate this understanding.

Indigenous Traditions: Ancestral Consciousness and Healing (3 units)
Indigenous traditional knowledge is every person's birthright. This course provides students with an opportunity for reclaiming their indigenous heritages, allowing them to make breaks with beliefs, tradition, extended family, community, and homeland. Students focus on aspects of their individual ancestral heritages and family lineages that call for healing.

Jungian Psychology and East-West Spirituality (3 units)
This course examines Jung's historic contribution to the study of East-West psychology and religion, and the significance of Jungian psychology for a contemporary understanding of spirituality.

Dreaming the Soul: Dancing the Dream—A Jungian Dream Catcher (1 unit)
This course offers a reflective and experiential exploration of dreamwork from a Jungian eco-psychological perspective, as a process of befriending the soul. The soul, in turn, is understood as a world soul in which the human psyche dwells. Students engage their dream images through movement and painting, enactment, story making, imagination, and a dream journal. Through such creative embodied engagement, dream images disclose new insights; evoke rich, intuitive resonances; and instill the experience of a deeper belonging.

Spiritual Counseling Skills (3 units)
This course explores-through experience and reflection-the meaning, purpose, and practice of the transformative art of spiritual counseling. This inquiry unfolds on the ground of global wisdom traditions and Western psychology. The class provides students with an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills towards their own East-West spiritual counseling practice by embarking on a threefold path: (a) inquiring into the student's own psycho-spiritual development, practice, and paradigms; (b) developing awareness- and mindfulness-based skills for working with conscious and unconscious layers of the psyche; and (c) exploring various existential topics related the spiritual counseling context.

Supervised Fieldwork (1–3 units)
Applied psychological work in an approved off-campus setting under individual professional supervision.

Independent Study (1–3 units)
Coursework that extends a student's field of inquiry beyond current CIIS courses. Requires a syllabus and contract signed by the student and faculty member, and approved by the program chair.

Admissions Guidelines

Applicants must meet the general admission requirements of the university. Applicants need not have an undergraduate major in psychology, but should have a strong interest in psychology; an interdisciplinary orientation is assumed. Students with insufficient background in psychology may be required to take additional courses as prerequisites to the MA.

Successful candidates for admission into the MA program typically have the following qualifications: a vision that is compatible with our program's mission; a path of personal and/or spiritual growth; sufficient maturity and stability to pursue independent inquiry; basic competence in communication and dialogical skills; demonstration of respect for a diversity of view points; the ability to clearly articulate educational and professional goals; basic scholarly writing skills; and the capacity to identify a prospective specialization that is consistent with the program's mission and resources.

Learn more about applying.

Questions about admissions or our program?

Admissions Counselor:
Richard Wormstall
(415) 575-6156| rwormstall@ciis.edu

Program Manager:
Stephen Julich, PhD
(415) 575-6189| ewp@ciis.edu

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