PhD students complete 36 units of coursework and one comprehensive exam; they then write a dissertation. Students work closely with their advisors to design an individualized curriculum and participate in research colloquia to articulate their dissertation research project.
Course of Study
All students complete five units of core requirements:
- East-West Psychology Community Retreat
- Introduction to East-West Psychology
- Conscious Diversity: Inner and Outer—A Diversity Process Class
All students complete 8–9 units of research courses.
- Qualitative Research Methods
- Theoretical Research Methods
- An additional research methods course
All students complete:
- Two Research Colloquia
- Dissertation Proposal
(The dissertation proposal and dissertation seminar classes are each 0 units and are charged at a flat rate.)
Students take two advanced PhD seminars, one of which completes the comprehensive exam requirement.
Students have 14–15 units of electives in their area of specialization. Possible courses include:
- Depth Psychology
- Transpersonal Psychology
- East-West Spiritual Counseling
- Shamanic Studies
- Consciousness Studies
Combined PhD/Spiritual Counseling
Students entering the PhD program with a license and mental health practice, or pastoral counseling training, may apply for the East-West Spiritual Counseling Certificate. Spiritual counseling becomes the area of specialization for such a doctoral student.
A limited number of paid teaching and research assistantships are available every semester. Possible responsibilities for teaching assistants include facilitation of experiential learning; teaching portions of a class; working with students outside the classroom on projects; miscellaneous administrative and logistical 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.
An internship is an opportunity to integrate career-related experience into an academic education through on-the-job training rather than merely employment. Internships are typically a means for students to gain practical experience in their chosen field in a supervised professional work environment. The department provides students with a list of associated organizations in which internships are available: East-West Psychology Department Internship Opportunities, Internships can be carried out as fieldwork up to a maximum of 6 units.
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.
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.
Qualitative Research Methods (3 units)
This class offers an introduction to methods of qualitative research, with special emphasis on including the personhood of the researcher as an integral part of the research process. Heuristics, phenomenology, case study, and theoretical methods are a few of the approaches surveyed and explored through various exercises and work with film.
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.
Theoretical Research Methods (3 units)
This course provides an introduction to the logic of theoretical research and overview of different theoretical approaches, such as hermeneutics, comparative analysis, critical theory, integrative studies, deconstruction, and feminist research. Emphasis is placed on approaching research and writing as transformative spiritual practices.
Advanced PhD Seminar: Integral Scholarship (3 units)
This doctoral seminar serves to provide the platform from where students will develop a deepened awareness and refinement of their academic writing, research, and teaching skills, while exploring the current climate of higher education in the United States and CIIS. The century-long discussion between traditional and progressive educators will be investigated, as well as specific progressive education models that have emerged in the United States in the last five decades. Then, a critical examination of integral education, a unique, whole-person pedagogical approach practiced at CIIS, will commence by investigating the historical context, philosophical underpinnings, and founding vision of the university, alongside the personal lived experiences of integral education at CIIS, as told by the students in the course. From this grounding, students will explore their understanding of the conventions of mainstream academic writing, research, and teaching, and develop for themselves what it means to be integral writers, researchers, and educators, and ways to communicate the value of that distinction to a wider audience.
Advanced PhD Seminar: Principles of Healing (3 units)
This seminar is an in-depth study of the principles of healing as practiced by therapists, shamans, artists, and spiritual counselors. Spiritual, emotional, philosophical, and psychological perspectives on healing are discussed. Students participate in a selected experiential healing method.
Advanced PhD Seminar: Contemplative Traditions and Practices (3 units)
This seminar will facilitate research in a variety of contemplative practices contextualized by the traditions to which they belong, with the aim of enhanced scholarly awareness and understanding of these practices and traditions both in themselves and in a comparative frame. Practices considered will include chanting, reading, prayer, meditation on ideas (including paradox, metaphor, and metonym), meditation on iconic forms, unfocused meditation, visualization, story (telling and hearing), ritual, entheogenic experience, movement, creative performance, and synthetic forms. Traditions will be drawn from different regions of the world. The seminar will include introductions to the practices and to their bibliographies, and will invite student participation in researching and presenting research on topics of their choice.
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.
Research Colloquium (1 unit)
Ongoing seminar with advisor. Students' presentation of their work in progress leading to the completion of dissertation proposal.
The advanced student's research and writing of a dissertation progresses with the mentorship of, and in close consultation with, the dissertation chair and committee.
Applicants must meet the general admission requirements of CIIS, and must have an MA in East–West Psychology or its equivalent. An equivalent might be, for example, a background in Humanistic, Jungian, or transpersonal psychology; or a background in psychology of religion or in religious studies. Applicants who do not have a background in East–West Psychology will be asked to complete up to 12 units of courses drawn from the East–West Psychology core requirements and directed electives, minus equivalencies, which will be decided by the admission committee on an individual basis.
Successful candidates for admission to the PhD program typically have the following qualifications: a vision that is compatible with the program's mission and interdisciplinary nature; a path of personal and/or spiritual growth; sufficient maturity and stability to pursue independent inquiry; competence of communication and dialectical skills; demonstration of respect for a diversity of viewpoints; an openness to multiple ways of knowing and whole-person learning; the ability to clearly articulate educational, professional, and research goals; outstanding scholarly writing skills; the ability to clearly articulate their educational and professional goals; and the capability to identify a prospective area of specialization and/or a dissertation topic that is consistent with the program's mission and resources.